Q&A with Tom Savini

Cult Projections: Apart from Lon Chaney, who else inspired your move into the art of illusion? 

Tom: Houdini, Jack Pierce, Dick Smith, Rick Baker, Rob Bottin.

CP: Looking back on your extraordinary career is there a particular period or collaboration that you’re especially fond of?

T: Yes, my collaboration with George Romero.

CP: Do you have a personal favourite of the movies you’ve worked on?

T: Creepshow, Day Of The Dead, and From Dusk Till Dawn.

CP: What has been the most grueling movie to work on? Why?

T: Creepshow. It was five little movies, and it was just me and my 17-year-old assistant Daryl. 

CP: What were your first thoughts when you started to see special effects makeup being replaced by CGI in horror movies? How did you bridge this dramatic shift in the industry?

T: I love CGI when it is done well...it became a very useful tool. The best effects are a combination of CGI and practical.

CP: The horror movies of the mid-70s to the mid-80s are considered the golden age of the modern horror movie. And now many of those cult/classic films are being remade. You remade Night of the Living Dead back in 1990, and you have a remake of Nightmare City in the works, if you were given the opportunity to direct another remake of your choice, what would it be?

T: It would be what I intended to do with Night of the Living Dead.

CP: Zombies, werewolves, vampires, demons, beasts, mutilated bodies … Do you have a favourite creation?

T: No … they are all my children.

CP: Outside of your own work, name three special makeup effects sequences or creations that you consider benchmarks of the art.

T: Rob Bottin’s work in The Thing, Rick Baker’s on An American Werewolf in London, Dick Smith’s on The Exorcist.

CP: Any young, up-and-coming practitioners in the art of special effects makeup you would single out for their talent? 

T: There are way too many.

CP: What is the most important element in a horror movie that a budding director should adhere to?

T: That the best scares come from suspense. Any idiot can jump up and yell “Boo!” 

CP: If you had to pick three horror movies of the past fifty years to be put into a time capsule as representative of the cinematic genre, what would they be?

T: Frankenstein, The Exorcist, and Alien.

CP: How’s the Nightmare City remake coming along? Any other projects you're working on? 

T: They are rewriting Nightmare City, and I just did six episodes of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series.

CP: Thanks Tom!

Smoke and Mirrors: The Tom Savini Story screens as part of Sydney's A Night Of Horror International Film Festival, Friday, November 25th, 9pm, Dendy Cinemas Newtown. 

Q&A with Sevé Schelenz, director of PEELERS

Cult Projections: You’ve worked as an editor for twenty odd years, how did your first feature, Skew, come about? Was it difficult to make?

Sevé: The idea for Skew came to me the day before a planned road trip with two other friends.  I always loved to just grab my video camera and shoot anything I could and have fun with the footage. All of a sudden this crazy horrific scenario hit me, “What if I brought my camera along for this trip and I started seeing some weird things through its viewfinder?” - I took this idea and actually constructed a very rough first draft of the script during the four days of our road trip.  It took another six months to finish the final draft.  -Making Skew (as with any film) was an enormous process.  Long pre-production, long production, long post-production.  -You just can’t avoid it on a true indie feature film. That’s not to say I didn’t have fun! Working with a small cast and crew was a real treat and kept the creative juices flowing for everyone. Being my first feature as a Producer/Director/Writer, Skew was an amazing experience. As a matter of fact, my history in post production was a huge asset to making the film. As an editor I was able to take the knowledge of what footage needed to actually be filmed in order to construct a story in post. So, it was an advantage for me to be on set as the director of my own projects because I knew what had to be put in the can before the editing began.

CP: Had you seen many found footage movies when you made Skew? Which movies of this horror sub-genre have impressed you the most?

S: I personally had not seen many found footage films before I made Skew.  Actually, The Blair Witch Project was the only one I can think of at the time and it definitely was an inspiration to me.  I remember going to the theatre and saying to myself, “Yes, I know this is fake but let’s pretend it’s real and go along for the ride.” It turned out to be one of the best experiences for me at the theatre.  I had never seen a film like this and the realism of it was the most shocking and scary aspect. I realised then that I could get away with making an indie film and not worry about it looking like so low-budget. That was the real crux for me from the get-go when I wanted to make my first feature.  I felt the technology wasn’t quite there yet and most indie films with small budgets tried to look bigger and failed. I just didn’t want to be another traditionally-shot, throw-away indie film that looks cheap. Found footage essentially saved the day for me. Now, having said that, there has been a large debate about whether Skew is a found footage film or not. If you’re interested in that debate, there’s enough literature about it online. At this point, I’ll let the fans make up their own minds.

CP: What compels you as a filmmaker about the horror genre? What kind of horror movies tickle your fancy the most? What kind of horror movies disinterest you? 

S: What compels me about the horror genre is trying to really scare the crap out of people. It’s such a hard feat these days, but if you can do something that the audience is not expecting, it can be very rewarding. Although Peelers is more of an action-horror film and definitely has a number of its own unique scares, I do love horror movies that mess with your mind and also love the traditional slow-burn types that build the tension and sense of dread like Halloween or Rosemary’s Baby. I’m not really into the torture porn horror flicks. I have no interest in films like Hostel or The Human Centipede. That type of horror just doesn’t do it for me. I find it over-the-top gratuitous and not that enjoyable to watch.

CP: Tell me about the origin of Peelers? How did you team up and collaborate with Lisa DeVita?

S: I actually met Lisa at a post facility where I was working as a colourist and she was a post production coordinator. I originally recruited her for my baseball team when I learned she played and we were in need of a girl. I only found out later that she was an aspiring screenwriter. I heard she lived in Las Vegas for a while and so when I approached her about writing a stripper horror flick, she was giddy with excitement and came onboard immediately. We hit it off and worked together really well. We both have thick skin and neither one of us gets offended by anything so none of that political correctness bullshit ever comes into play. It’s very liberating. As for the origin of Peelers, you’ll have to ask Lisa the story behind the inspiration for the script as she tells it the best (hint: it involves a strip club she visited while in Vegas). 

CP: You and Lisa have small roles in the movie, had you always planned to play the cops? 

S: Hello?? Spoiler! Kidding. I definitely had the idea of giving us a cameo but I didn’t share this with Lisa until she was finished with the script. I knew she would try to get out of it and it took a bit of convincing to get her on board. As a matter of fact, the other two producers of Peelers appear in the same scene and they were reluctant to do it as well. But I knew I would be able to change their minds and have them in the scene. Once they saw my acting they probably realsed it was going to be a cakewalk.

CP: Actually, you and Lisa had a hand in many of the movie’s key departments. Tell me about the pros and cons of being so involved. What was the hardest part? What was the most enjoyable?

S: You quickly learn in indie filmmaking that if you want something done, you have to do it yourself.  So, for this reason as well as for budget, Lisa and I had our hands in every single department. I’d say the cons of being so involved in the whole production process is that there is so much to do that you really spread yourself thin and you don’t eat or sleep much. It’s very stressful and just when one thing goes right, ten others go wrong. And if you’re not familiar with a department or a procedure, you have to learn it on the fly because no one is there to help you. The good thing about wearing twenty hats at once is that you get final say on everything and you call all the shots.  You don’t worry about getting burned by someone whom you thought you could trust, it’s all on you. The hardest part was trying to play director and producer at the same time once production was under way. It just doesn’t work. You have to be totally focused on your role as a director; you don’t have time to be putting out fires as a producer when you’re working with the actors and the crew. Thankfully, that’s where Lisa came in. I deferred the producer problems to her and our second producer when they popped up during production and enjoyed watching her try and deal with those fires … She hates conflict and tries to avoid it at all costs. But as a producer, it’s part of the job. The most enjoyable department for me was editing. I love being in a room finally all alone with all the footage and putting it all together to create a story.  

CP: The movie has been doing very well on the international film festival circuit, is there a particular audience that Peelers appeals to? Did you expect this kind of response? What festivals have you enjoyed attending?

S: Peelers definitely appeals to the rowdy, fun, sneak-beer-into-the-theatre-type crowd. We’ve been to festivals where the audience seems civil enough and then once the film gets going, the crowd just goes nuts. It’s like a light goes on and they say, “Oh, it’s this kind of film! Wahooo! I can finally have some fun!” And they do. They’re laughing out loud and whooping and cheering. They get into it. It’s been a blast to experience. We honestly didn’t know what to expect. We just hoped that people would enjoy the story. And so far, it’s really been that way. It’s weird to say this, but it’s like a “feel good” stripper movie. And not because it’s got a happy ending and everything works out (trust me, that’s far from the case), but because it’s just a fun ride with a story and a bunch of characters that everyone seems to genuinely like. As far as festivals, we absolutely loved attending Sitges, Leeds and Razor Reel (in Bruges). All three festivals had great turnouts and the audiences were enthusiastic and buzzing afterward. Shriekfest in L.A. was good too. The crowd left shaking their heads in disbelief and laughing the whole time. 

CP: How important is humour and exploitation in a horror movie? How does it work best? 

S: While I don’t think either humour or exploitation are absolutely important or mandatory for a horror movie, both work well in Peelers. With our film I wanted to give the audience a break from the gore and violence by injecting some humour into the mix. I find it allows the audience to empathise much more with the characters. As for the exploitation, I think that term is used far too often to generalise a horror film. Exploitation has been used to describe so many low budget non-Hollywood horror flicks because of the raw and roughness of an indie film. I think it fully depends on what type of sub-genre of horror you’re creating that exploitation comes into view. Funny enough, story and characters are my number one concern when making a film, even horror, and the rest becomes complementary to this.

CP: What’s your opinion on the use of practical effects vs. CGI? What are some of your favourite examples of both?

S: I’m an old-fashioned filmmaker so I’m all for practical effects if possible. That being said, having worked on CGI firsthand with Peelers, I have a deep appreciation for the work that goes into visual effects. Both have their place in film. Some of my favourite practical effects are in Jurassic Park (I know, not a horror, but it’s a favourite) and The Exorcist. As for VFX, the American version of The Ring comes to mind. Overall, as a filmmaker I always think of doing an effect practically first. Yet, in the end, it comes down to what it will take to realistically make the effect happen. Budget and time ultimately decide the route to follow on creating an effect.

CP: How tailored was Peelers in terms of classification? Considering it’s set in a sleazy strip club, it’s remarkably tasteful, all things considered. Even the gore factor is kept under reigns, relatively. Were you and Lisa tempted to make a more extreme movie? 

S: With Peelers, we wanted to do something different. There have been a few stripper horror films already made and I feel that many or them don’t really work. Probably one of the best stripper horror films would have to be From Dusk Till Dawn. Seeing as that was the pinnacle of this sub-genre and there weren’t many others to follow, we felt we could bring a breath of fresh air into it.  Enter Peelers. We wanted to give the strip club a slightly cleaner look. Having the colours pop and giving a stylised look to the club. Even our opening title sequence has a “James Bond” feel to it.  Breaking the rules and giving something different to the audience, that’s what our plan was. Oh, and of course we really bent the rules with our leading lady being so strong and kicking ass in a strip club rather than being a victim as most stripper horror flicks have done.

CP: What would be your horror movie desert island flicks? (just five movies)

S: Desert Island… Ha!  Can I put Jaws at the top of the list? In addition to that I’d pick Alien, The Ring, Evil Dead 2 and The Thing. Is there a Blockbuster on the island so I can rent more? Wow, Blockbuster…wonder if your younger readers even know what that is?

CP: So, what do you have planned next? 

S: Well, we have a bucket-load of films we’re working on right now. They’re all in different stages of development AND all different genres. You may be surprised to know the project most advanced at this stage is actually a family film. Wait for it … it’s a talking dog flick. Our projects are very much like us: original, creative and possibly pushing the envelope. One way or another, you’ll always have fun with what we have in store for you. Oh, did I mention we’re also working on a comedy, a sci-fi, a thriller and a trilogy that begun as a novel that Lisa is working on right now?  And we may have another horror up our sleeve as well.

CP: Thanks Sevé!

S: Thanks Bryn!  Was fun to get a chance to answer all your great questions.  I hope your readers get the opportunity to catch Peelers at A Night of Horror Film Fest this year. If they do, I’ll be there in person to screen the film and I hope they get a chance to say hello.

Q&A with Kier-La Janisse, Festival Director of Monster Fest

Cult Projections: You’re a force to be reckoned with, a legend in your own time. You’ve been published, and been involved with genre film festivals for nearly twenty years, and no doubt a fan of horror and exploitation, in all its permutations, for a lot longer. You’ve been instrumental in various endeavours, launches, exhibitions, pet projects, programmes, productions, and publications, etc … You must have so many stories to tell. So, let me keep it simple, I’ll just grill you on a whole bunch of favourites or notables, so your answers can be short and sweet. So, to kick off, what publication, book or magazine, made you want to become a writer?
 

Kier-La: The Outsiders. As a kid when I read that she was only sixteen when she wrote it, I wanted to publish a novel by the time I was 16 too. Of course I ended up in reform school at sixteen so it took a little longer! 

CP: What film festival event has been the most memorable?

K: I really loved Flatpack in Birmingham, UK because every screening had something unusual about it, it was the most creatively-curated festival I’d ever been to.

CP: What director would you love to program a retrospective of?

K: Robert Downey Sr. Probably not at Monster Fest though!

CP: What’s your favourite vampire movie?

K: The Hunger. Or maybe Vampire’s Kiss with Nicholas Cage. Haha. 

CP: What’s your favourite zombie movie?

K: Messiah of Evil. Which is also just one of my favourite American films, period. [Ed: I love that movie too]

CP: What’s your favourite werewolf movie? 

K: The Company of Wolves.

CP: What’s your favourite stalk’n’slash movie?

K: Of that classic 80s era? April Fool’s Day, even though it pretty much fails as a slasher movie. But I just think it has such a believable, likeable ensemble cast, and I think Fred Walton is a really underrated director. I think his made-for-TV sequel to When a Stranger Calls is also amazing, but it’s more ‘stalk’ than ‘slash’.

CP: What’s your favourite giallo?

K: Probably Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion but hard to ignore the impact of the first ones I saw like Deep Red and Lizard in a Woman’s Skin.

CP: What’s your favourite ghost or supernatural movie?

K: Supernatural would be Carrie, but if we’re talking ghosts, then it would be Jack Clayton’s The Innocents.

CP: What’s your favourite Lovecraftian movie?

K: The Real Ghostbusters episode “The Collect Call of Cathulu”

CP: What’s your favourite score?

K: The Haunting of Julia composed by Colin Towns.

CP: What’s your favourite use of sourced music in a movie?

K: Radio On directed by Chris Petit.

CP: What’s your favourite gore gag or special effects sequence?

K: Girl vomiting up her intestinal tract in Gates of Hell will always be a fave.

CP: Who is your favourite psychotic woman?

K: The obvious one – Isabelle Adjani in Possession!

CP: Who is your favourite psycho/boogeyman?

K: The hearse driver in Burnt Offerings.

CP: What’s your favourite movie involving witchcraft?

K: I love all witches, so hard to pick. I love “The Dust Witch” in Something Wicked This Way Comes. But overall Witch movie? Suspiria is going to be hard to beat. Although a less obvious second choice would be Casting the Runes, the Lawrence Gordon Clark TV movie.

CP: What is your earliest memory of being frightened by a movie or television show?

K: Horror Express – I was three, saw it on a Saturday afternoon at my grandmother’s house and had nightmares about it for almost a decade.

CP: What was your first “adult” experience (sneaking into an R, X, or NC-17-rated movie, or renting an R-rated VHS when you were underage, etc)?

K: I saw restricted movies all the time as a kid. I went to see Valley Girl with my dad and it was really embarrassing because when EG Daily’s top came off he went “Ooooh!!” really loudly. But I remember my mom really didn’t want me to see Porky’s – but when she warned me about it, I had already seen it! 

CP: What’s your favourite sleazy, dodgy, grindhouse-style movie?

K: Poor Pretty Eddie. I absolutely love this film.

CP: What is your favourite found footage or mockumentary movie?

K: Punishment Park.

CP: What is your favourite movie based on a true story, or events, or real person?

K: I think one I just saw for the first time – The Boys

CP: What is your favourite Asian movie?

K: Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41.

CP: What is your favourite European movie?

K: The Night Porter.

CP: What is your favourite Australian movie?

K: Wake in Fright. [Ed: Yes, it’s my fave Oz movie too]

CP: What is your favourite rape-revenge movie?

K: Ms. 45.

CP: What movie have you watched the most times? How many times?

K: I had a bet with a girl in Grade 9 that I could watch The Breakfast Club more times than she could. I watched it fifty-six times. I do not think I have watched any film more times than that ever since.

CP: What five movies would be your “desert island flicks”?

K: Cockfighter, Vice Squad, Jaws, Over the Edge, and the last would be a tossup between Carrie and Streets of Fire.

CP: What five movies from the past ten years have impressed you the most?

K: Let the Right One In, The Babadook, February, Evolution, See You Next Tuesday.

CP: What three things shouldn’t people miss at Monster Fest!

K: I think my personal picks might be the new restoration of On the Silver Globe, the rare screening and presentation on the “Witch Hunt” episode of Homicide (an absolutely amazing episode set partially in Hawthorne where Monster Fest takes place) and The Cult of Monster All-Night Marathon!

CP: Thank you Kier-La!!

Monster Fest runs Thursday, November 24th - Sunday, November 27th at Lido Cinemas, Melbourne. 

For complete program, info, and screening times visit monsterfest.com.au

Q&A with Richard Wolstencroft, director of Melbourne Underground Film Festival

Cult Projections: Now in its 17th year has the Melbourne Underground Film Festival found its sweet spot? Is running the festival a passion, a labour of love, a kind of alternative obligation to the Australian film industry, or something else? 

Richard: All of the above - a divine madness. I just thought something should be done in the industry, new noices were NOT being heard and I wanted to help get them heard, so I did. And I keep doing it EVERY year, out of passion and spite. MUFF has inspired the likes of other indie fests like SUFF, A Night Of Horror & Fantastic Planet, and Monsterfest to do their own thing, and along with Revelation Film Festival under Jack Sargeant and Richard Sowada, well, we are The Four Horseman of Cinema Apocalypse and Innovation in this country. I do sometimes get conflicted when working on my own films and MUFF intrudes, as it is this year as I am in pre-production on my new feature for mid-October. But I always love doing it, I love the filmmakers and discovering new talent. It has been around long enough now to even earn the respect of some of my enemies.

CP: Has MUFF evolved much since its inception? Do you stand by any kind of Festival Director’s motto or manifesto?

R: “Make The Australian Film Industry Great Again”. Riffing on Trump … But thinking about it, that has always been the theme and goal. A festival as incubator, provocateur and cinema movement itself. MUFF is a vital incubator these last seventeen years for a new type of DIY and micro-budget attitude and spirit, and the first film fest in the world to play the likes of James Wan, who is now surpassing even Wes Craven’s achievements in international horror cinema, Greg Mclean of Wolf Creek, Patrick Hughes of Expendables 3 fame and Abe Forsythe who has the new film Down Under coming out about the Cronulla race riots, which is an excellent new Australian film, to name just a few.

CP: How easy or difficult is the selection process? Do you rely mostly on cold submissions? How often have you tried hard to source a particular film?

R: We use Withoutabox and Film Freeway and few other platforms, and the entry form online. We don’t look for production value, glitz and polish, we look for ideas, spirit and an aggressive attitude. We look for something out of the ordinary, talent really. But I’m NOT pedantic. In fact I have EVEN selected films for MUFF based on the personality and drive of the filmmaker alone, without seeing the film. I don’t even NEED to see the work until we play it sometimes, if the filmmaker has a GET UP and GO attitude, which I look for. A “never say die” spirit.

CP: As you mentioned, this year the MUFF tagline is “Make the Australian Film Industry Great Again”. What do you perceive is so wrong with the local industry? Can you give me any specific examples of “bad” movies? What Aussie films have you seen - outside of MUFF - in the last ten years that really impressed you?

R: Let’s be honest, The Dressmaker sucked dick. It was a sort-of-hit with some, but I hated it. Un-Australian feminist garbage. Of which they have decided to make a lot more I hear. A Month of Sundays, it felt like that watching it. Geez. Tediously dull film, un-engaging. Two recent pet peeves. I’ve got a list of film of Government-funded critical and commercial failures, it’s a long list since 2000, over one hundred films - from Danny Deckchair to Book of Revelation to My Year without Sex - how dull does that sound? How about My Year of Unending Sex. Australia has it all ass up. Who wants to see a film called My Year Without Sex? No one, and no one did. 

CP: Do you have any standout favourite features and/or short films that have screened over the years?

R: Tin Can Man by Ivan Kavanagh and starring Michael Parle is my fav MUFF film. I am working with Parle in October, he’s flying out to be in my new film. Then The Magician by Scott Ryan is another highlight, which Nash Egerton got involved in later down the line. But The Perfect Nonsense on Opening Night this year at MUFF is another recent fave.

CP: How abreast do you keep with other “underground” genre-based film festivals within Australia? Do you see MUFF as being an exception, or ahead of the field? How relevant is the “underground” scene in Australia?

R: I like breasts - boom tish! But I think as I said that MUFF, SUFF, A Night Of Horror, Revelation, and Monsterfest are the happening indie fests down under now. MIFF and SIFF continue to do what they do with a large budget, play a section of decent overseas art house films, but their Australian sections are rather weak and woeful some years. MUFF is a proud Nationalist Film Festival, as in we are an openly supporting Aussie cinema festival. 

CP: What elements should an “underground” film festival strive to highlight and champion? 

R: I don’t really give a shit about definitions. To me “underground” is the NEW word for “indie”, whereas Sundance films all star George Clooney and Brad Pitt and are not real “indie” anymore. Underground film festivals these days play the REAL indie films, that’s even changing as SUFF mainly play commercial genre cinema, for example. It’s NOT what it used to mean, i.e the films of Jonas Mekas and Kenneth Anger say, though they are still a part of it. At MUFF it is low budget to micro budget genre cinema mostly. That’s what we foster, like and promote mostly and many of these filmmaker go on to ACTUAL careers - I know unheard of I know - unlike filmmakers MIFF and SIFF promote, who are mostly all PC wankers, funding leeches, pals of funding people and gender ring ins with no actual talent, or even calling for cinema or deep knowledge of it. etc. 

CP: As an independent filmmaker yourself what key elements are most important when making your own short or feature? What mistakes do you see being made by other filmmakers?

R: The cast is all on a low budget film and just being prepared, you don’t need big crews or fancy cameras or sound mixes. Just get out there and do it, and have something to say and express. THINK! And be AGGRESSIVE.

CP: You have a very strong and opinionated view of politics, and frequently stir the pot on social media for reaction, do you think it’s important for politics to influence a film festival? What about politics within the arts culture, should the two be kept separate, or do you see them as inherent bedfellows? 

R: Yes, I’m the Facebook troublemaker from Hell and even troll at times to stir the pot. My politics are acquired taste, and are a mix of Left and Right ideas. The new movement - The Alt Right - a Western Society advocating movement connected to Trump I have written a few articles and film reviews for. But all this only marginally effect the actual programming of MUFF, which is just a bit punk, DIY, genre, cheeky non-PC, and just get to it. I don’t think my own personal politics is that relevant to the actual content of the festival. People who try and link the two as inherently connected are misguided. 

CP: Where do you see MUFF in the next five years? What personal film projects do you have on the boil? 

R: I plan to make three genre features in two years. The first is The Debt Collector. it shoots from mid October. Then two after that, one is a REAL hot tomato. Hoping after these slate of indie movies I’m making, that someone might realise I am the genius I am; Von Trier, Tarantino, Malick and Ken Russell blended in a Cronenberg fly pod, and give me some proper budgets we can really begin to cook. "Nothing stops this train," as Walter White said. I also wish to enable a slate of one hundred grand features from the best MUFF, Rev, Monsterfest and SUFF filmmakers to get a whole New Vanguard in Australian Cinema movement going. We juts need about $100 to 200k per film from the funding bodies or private sources, to totally transform this industry in two or three years. 

CP: What are some of your favourite movies? Has your taste in film changed much over the past twenty years?

R: My favourite film is Barry Lyndon by Kubrick, but I have a vast film taste and knowledge of it. If… by Lindsay Anderson is a big influence and the films of Ken Russell. Maidstone by Norman Mailer I saw recently that impressed the hell out of me. 

CP: What filmmakers and actors do you admire? Why?

R: Terrence Malick, David Lynch, Herzog, Cronenberg, Von Trier, Winding Refn, Michael Mann, Scorsese, De Palma, Kubrick, Bunuel, Hitchcock, Pasolini, John Ford, Peckinpah, Tarantino. Ken Russell, they’re all geniuses. 

CP: Thanks Richard!

Melbourne Underground Film Festival opens tonight and runs until September 17th. Fore complete program and venue details check www.muff.com.au

Q&A with Briony Kidd, director and programmer of Stranger With My Face International Film Festival

Cult Projections: At what age were you drawn to horror as a cinema genre? What were some of the movies that first really impressed you? Do you still hold them in high regard?

Briony: I wasn't exposed to horror much as a kid. But I enjoyed anything weird and a bit otherworldly—time travel stories, ghost stories, body swapping. Three films that were really influential for me were The Innocents (Jack Clayton), The Piano (Jane Campion) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir). I respect those films as much now as I did when I first saw them, if anything they only get better with time. Seeing the George Romero zombie films when I was a teenager had a huge impact too, in terms of my understanding of what horror can achieve.

CP: You founded Stranger With My Face with Rebecca Thomson. Who took the inspiration from the Lois Duncan novel, and tell me a little about “the horror within” and its influence on the festival’s manifesto.

B: Rebecca and I started the festival because we're both filmmakers who had been supported by the "women in horror" movement and we felt inspired by the power of that. We were initially just going to screen some of the films from the Viscera Film Festival's archive of short films (Viscera was women's horror festival in Los Angeles that also toured its films to other events). But then I found other things I wanted to add to the line-up and it grew from there. 

The idea of the 'horror within' is really just a way of explaining what interests me as a programmer. It's always been me programming the festival, so it's fairly idiosyncratic in that sense. I personally am not as excited about straight 'monster' stories where's there's a bad guy and he's just trying to kill you and you have to fight. Of course I love Halloween, so it can work brilliantly - but even in that film it's the weird connection between Laurie and Michael Myers that's intriguing. It's the sense that there may be some link between the hero and the villain that I find interesting….or even that they may be the same person (metaphorically), because it feels very true to life. So maybe it's just a taste for horror that goes deeper into the psyche. The name of the festival came about because I was thinking through all these ideas and trying to work out how to sum them up and that's the phrase that popped into my head. Lois Duncan had explained it perfectly with that title. And luckily she was happy for us to use the name.

CP: What was the first year of the festival and what was it like? The festival had a year off, has the festival returned in any dramatically different way? Where do you see the festival in five years? 

B: The first year of the festival in 2012 was low key but it took off straight away, in terms of filmmakers and guests attending from interstate and support from the local film community. So it really seemed like there was a need for it and we should keep going. The first three years were about growing a little bit each time, learning from mistakes, refining things. Last year I took a year off, because I'm the only one working permanently on the event and I needed to have a break and think about how it could move forward and grow. What I decided, with advice, is that the festival needed to get slightly bigger and become more of an international event, hence the name change. There are two elements to that - and one is that we can better highlight and support the lesser known and emerging filmmakers in the festival if we ourselves have a higher profile, and two is that we can also attract bigger films and premieres. It's striking the right balance between the two that is the trick. In five years I hope we'll have a sustainable model based on various funding sources and a loyal, committed audience. I guess that's what every festival would like to have!

CP: As the festival programmer, do you have any strict criteria you look for? What about the Bechtel test, do you employ that when selecting movies?

B: Apart from demonstrating skill in craft and writing, the key criteria is that films should have a point of view, some kind of “voice” or perspective. If it's just a mood piece or a scary story that goes nowhere, it's not worth the slot it's going to take in the program. I don't care so much about the Bechdel Test, my thinking being that I'm mainly selecting films by women and that, in itself, is a sort of “test” that's already been passed. If I'm looking at a film by a male director I might consider that a bit more.

CP: With advanced technology so readily available now, there are more filmmakers submitting short films to festivals than ever before. What key elements in a short are you looking for? What problematic issues (that will cause you to reject the short) do you see filmmakers making most frequently?

B: The main problem with most short films I see is that the filmmaker has no idea what they want to say. They haven't put anything of their personality or morality into it and so they're not risking anything, in that sense. Sure, it's valid to make something to test out a visual style or an aesthetic, but it's unlikely to resonate with an audience. Conversely, another big problem is the lack of any kind of specific visual style. So you'll see boring lighting, banal production design, terrible music that's like wallpaper. If you're not interested in that stuff fine, but then maybe you should find a different medium to work in. The other big one is length. Don't make your short film more than 6 or 7 minutes unless you have a highly original concept and story that has legs, that goes beyond a set-up and a payoff. And don't wait for a couple of minutes to have anything happen! We're bored already.

CP: There’s been a trend of horror movies of late harnessing a retro atmosphere/tone/mood, especially the late 70s and early 80s. Why do you think filmmakers are being influenced and inspired by this era? 

B: I would speculate that filmmakers are inspired by more design-driven cinema at the moment because they're depressed at how low budgets have dropped and at being encouraged to do less and less with style (in terms of lighting something elaborately or using a lot of formal filmmaking techniques). I mean, sure, the found-footage thing was fun for a while, but as soon as it became this idea of “Oh, you don't really need much money to make a horror film, do it with handheld cameras” it became a problem. Perhaps the resurgence of certain retro styles is in direct response to that. It's about saying, “No, we actually do need time and money to make films.” 

CP: What’s your opinion on remakes? Have you seen any you rate highly? If a movie is remade, what should the criteria be for remaking it? 

B: Remakes are great if there's a reason for the film being made - such as if the director has a new take on the material, or loves it the original and wants to honour it while moving the conversation forward somehow (such as with Stoker and its links to Shadow of a Doubt). If it's just a “Oh we own this property so we might as well” sort of remake, I'd rather not see it. 

CP: If you could feature a retrospective of any director, alive or dead, whose work would you programme? Name five movies you would definitely screen.

B: A lot of the filmmakers I'd like to screen the work of may not actually have five solid films to include in a list—or may not have even made five films full stop. I feel like there are only such a limited number of filmmakers in the world who've had that privilege, of building a large body of work over time (and it's no accident that there are not many women in that category). Off the top of my head, a filmmaker I can think of is Donald Cammel. He only made four features. So those four! [Ed: Great answer]

CP: Outside of the festival, are you working on anything as a filmmaker? 

B: I have several feature film projects in development, including one through Screen Tasmania's Pitch Plot and Produce low budget feature initiative this year that's loosely a horror melodrama. I'm also working in theatre, such as a collective I'm part of called Radio Gothic. We create experimental radio plays to be performed in front of an audience, but we'll hopefully also podcast them at some stage.

CP: Thanks Briony!

Stranger With My Face International Film Festival screens in Tasmania, April 14th - 17th. Visit the site for full details, venues, and programme. 

Interview with Lucky McKee, writer/director of May, The Woods, and The Woman

This interview was originally published online in August 2011. 

Cult Projections: I presume you started off watching movies on VHS, like I did, at a young age, but then snuck into R-rated films –

Lucky: I didn’t get to sneak into R-rated films ‘cos I lived in the country, you know, so up until the age of about eleven or twelve my family would go to the movies maybe once a year, if we were lucky, so movies were a really, really special thing. We were the last family on the block to have a VCR, so we would rent VCRs for our birthdays, when I was very young, and eventually when I started watching the few movies I could get my hands on, over and over again, I’d say around the time I was twelve I finally had the access I needed, and I started just devouring. I didn’t get to grow up with a lot of that stuff, like a lot of kids do, which is kinda cool ‘cos I saw the films with different eyes. 

CP: Yeah, yeah.

L: There are still a lot of films that everyone grew up on I still haven’t seen. I’m always trying to play catch up, but you’ll never be able to see everything. 

CP: No. So what were some of the horror movies that had first a real impression on you, and inspired you to become a filmmaker?

L: The first was one of the times we rented a VCR for my sister’s birthday, and me and her, and my cousins – all girls – just decided to rent a bunch of horror movies. One of our cousins from the city was gonna scare us by showing us stuff that we’d never seen before, so we watched Psycho II, Carrie, and The Hitcher, which is a pretty damn good triple feature. Psycho II is actually pretty cool. We stayed up late at night, and we were scared to walk down the hallway to go to the bathroom, all that kind of stuff … 

CP: [laughs]

L: … because we lived in a big old house in the country when I was a kid, which made it extra spooky. We just had a blast, and I loved that feeling, that fascination just kinda stuck with me. My dad’s boss, he had a VCR and a massive movie collection, so we got to watch stuff like American Werewolf in London, and Faces of Death, and all this crazy stuff, and I was really young, and it all made such an impression. Like fairy tales make an impression on a child, you know? So it kinda grew from there.

CP: Horror films just are like dark fairy tales.

L: Absolutely. It all comes from the same place. 

CP: So what was it about A Nightmare on Elm Street that impressed you so much that you decided to make your own version?

L: I think it’s just the fact that it deals with the subconscious, which is really exciting. In The Woman I have a dream that opens the film, and the whole movie of The Woods is dreams and nightmares and all that kind of stuff. I love getting inside the subconscious. There’s something really freeing about that. I think David Lynch is probably the best person at creating the subconscious on film without being pretentious. So that’s what I really connected to. The early Nightmare on Elm Street films are so damn creative. 

CP: Certainly the first one. 

L: And the third one has got a lot of amazing stuff in there. I just hooked into it, you know? It’s like fairy tales. That stuff makes such a stark impression on you. 

CP: Following the screening of May at the Sundance Film Festival, how did the movie get picked up by Lion’s Gate?

L: I think Lion’s Gate knew about the film going in, they were really interested in it before we even showed it. My producers had a pretty good relationship with them at that point. It was amazing to show it for the first time, because we’d been working on it for so long that I was nervous that people wouldn’t understand the strange sense of humour that it has. It was a fantastic midnight screening, everyone was just laughing, uncomfortable, emotional, just feeling a whole bunch of different emotions, and Lion’s Gate just jumped right in there and snatched it up. It was a different time ten years ago, and showing The Woman at Sundance in the same category, years later, now it seems companies are more afraid of this kind of stuff. It’s like we’re getting more and more conservative! 

CP: There’s a neo-conservatism happening. 

L: Yeah. 

CP: We could talk for days about that. That’s the beef I have. So would you have predicted the cult following that May was going to create for you from those early screenings? 

L: I don’t think you can predict that sort of thing, I’m just surprised people still talk about it, and it means a lot when people come up to me and tell me how much the movie means to them, emotionally. People tell me the movie has helped them get through hard times. 

CP: It hasn’t dated in a weird kind of way.

L: It’s the same reason I can watch Taxi Driver over and over again; loneliness is something everyone can relate to. I got a lot of my own personal problems out on film, just making it. 

CP: How did you meet Angela Bettis, and did you cast her straight away, or did you audition a lot of women for that role? 

L: I auditioned a hundred girls. We auditioned probably every young twenty-something actress in Hollywood, and Angela walked in one day, and it was hers. She wanted it. She understood it on such a deeper level than any of the others. We saw a lot of very cool people though, like Emily De Ravin, and Elisha Cuthbert who had just come into Hollywood. I was like, wow, this girl’s amazing. 

CP: They’re both amazing. 

L: Yeah, like we had our pick of some really amazing people, but Angela just had the quirk. She’s designed to be on camera, she’s got a gift. 

CP: But the support cast is great also. Jeremy Sisto and Anna Faris give great performances in it.

L: Oh yeah, yeah. 

CP: They bring an eccentric flavour to it as well, in their own way. 

L: Yeah, absolutely. 

CP: Obviously Dario Argento is an inspiration to you, and there are some references in May. But I was curious that the film Adam [Jeremy Sisto] wants to go see is Trauma, which I think is one of his lesser films. 

L: A lot of people say that, but the reason I have a love for Trauma is because I had made a short film in college, and a very important visual element was the Ophelia painting by Millais, and I had this fascination with taking fine classic art and transposing it to film, and a lot of that came from Scorsese, who takes a lot of influence from great painters. I had just used that painting and I saw Trauma and they use that painting in a similar way. I felt a connection to Argento and they way his films are like watching moving paintings, you know, like Suspiria

CP: Yeah, very expressionistic. 

L: Yeah, I just had a connection with that. But I do it in my own way. And also the Adam character in the film is based on me and a couple of my film buddies, so that’s what I was into at the time and that’s what came out. I wasn’t trying to be an Argentophile and make that statement, because I steal from Hitchcock more than I steal from Argento … because Argento steals from Hitchcock. 

CP: Well, exactly. 

L: But I adore Argento. I always learn something from his films. 

CP: Again, I could talk for days about Argento. Even his failures, there are enough elements within -

L: There’s a lot more going on in those films than people give credit to. 

CP: But he’s an acquired taste as well. 

L: Absolutely, absolutely. 

CP: Nearly all your movies have female protagonists, and I’m curious about this. What is it about women or girls in the central role that appeals to you? 

L: Well, #1: I’m a great admire of women. I was talking to Polly [Pollyanna McIntosh] about this; when I started, when I first wrote May, it was a deeply personal story, and I think I was kinda hiding behind it, being a woman, in a way because women are viewed by a lot of people as being ruled by emotion and ruled by passion and all those things, but I have those same qualities, so I think I was kind of hiding it at first and then I realised that by making May and making my early short films that I worked really well with actresses. For some reason I worked better with them than I did with men, and I was more interested to photograph women, not in a sleazy way, but to show women as the whole beings that they are, not just a surface for the male gaze, but from within!

CP: You employ a magic realism, or there’s surrealism, or there’s a blackly comic tone to your narratives, rather than being very realistic – 

L: And that goes back to the fairy tale thing. I like the fantastic element. Movies are supposed to be magic. It’s like the ending of May when the monster comes to life; that’s impossible, that’s something that would happen in a fairytale. I love that character so much I wanted her to get what she wanted. She’d earned it by that point. 

CP: So you came onboard the Masters of Horror series with really only one horror movie to your name that was May – 

L: And I was finishing The Woods

CP: So was that Mick Garris who approached you on the basis of those two? 

L: Yeah, I’m really good friends with Tobe Hooper, and we’d met at a party shortly after I’d finished May, and he watched May and fell in love with it and I’m obviously a great admirer of him, I’ve studied all his films for a long time, and we became friends, and then they started inviting me to these Master of Horror dinners where all these old-timers would get together and bring some of us young guys in and we’d just talk shop and a lot of those guys recommended me, and there was an open slot, and it was a real honour, ‘cos I grew up on all of their films, and to be a part of that group was amazing. I would never consider myself a master of horror or any of that, I mean, that’s a sales tool, those guys are masters, and to be welcomed into that group and make an original film was really cool. I was the youngest kid working on the show, but I made the most old-fashioned film stylistically, because I was pulling from 30s films and 40s films, and Angela’s performance was more like a stylised performance from that era, so that was kind a funny. And then you get Tobe’s film that looks like it was made a kid from the future! But it was a great honour and a wonderful experience. 

CP: Do you have a favourite from the series? Have you watched them all?

L: I watched most of them from the first season, I didn’t watch any of the second season. 

CP: I love Dario’s Jenifer

L: Yeah, I LOVE Jenifer, I love Tobe’s. 

CP: I liked Cigarette Burns, John Carpenter’s one.

L: Yeah, a lot of people are fond of that one, but that one didn’t strike me too much, a little too much talking. 

CP: I’ve read Off Season, which is one of my favourite horror novels.

L: It’s intense. 

CP: I haven’t seen Offspring, but I’m curious is the role of The Woman in Off Season, or does she first appear in OffSpring? 

L: I think she is in Off Season. I think she might be one of the younger members of the tribes and by the time we get to Offspring she’s running the show, by the end of Offspring she loses her whole family and she’s on her own again. That’s where I picked it up. 

CP: So did you see Offspring and loved that character [The Woman] and thought I want to make a movie with her in the lead? 

L: I was invited by Andrew van den Houten and Jack Ketchum to see the film in New York once it was completed. They wanted to know if I had any ideas of a way to continue it, and I did, because I was familiar with the novel, but I said you gotta let me make my kind of movie, you gotta let me go in a completely different way, this isn’t just gonna be rinse and repeat, which is what horror sequels usually are. And so they let me do my own thing, final cut, let me use all the artists I wanted to use. 

CP: Would you have persevered if Pollyanna hadn’t come onboard?

L: I don’t think so; because she was the reason I wanted it. 

CP: I’m fascinated as to why The Woman is causing controversy. 

L: [laughs] So am I. 

CP: Having read some of the hype and all these overseas critics’ quotes I came into the screening expecting something a lot more shocking and disturbing. And in the Q&A following the screening you mentioned that you’ve been disappointed with the current state of the American horror scene and you wanted to inject some subversive vitality into the American horror movie. There was mention of the European horror movies, and I thought of the French films such as Martyrs, Frontiers, Inside – 

L: Yeah. 

CP: - the Spanish Kidnapped, the South Korean I Saw the Devil

L: I haven’t seen that yet, I want to see that. 

CP: - A Serbian Film, so I was anticipating that we were building up and we were going to see something quite hardcore, and then I found that your direction was, considering the amount of bloodletting and gore, quite restrained. Even the rape was more suggestive than I was expecting. 

L: Yeah. 

CP: So I was wondering was this level of restraint partly you decision to appease the MPAA so you wouldn’t get into trouble with censorship? 

L: It’s personal taste really. I think if you bludgeon somebody with sex and violence so much that loses its effect. Some people do it brilliantly, like Martyrs is a good example, I mean that movie just goes so graphic and brutal, in a visceral sort of a way. I think it all came down to personal taste. I got children in some pretty rough sort of situations, so I was shooting that stuff in such a way that I could still look at myself in the mirror in the morning; it was all just personal taste. I do think about the ratings. I didn’t think we were going to get an R-rating, just because of the subject matter, and I always get a hard time in the censor’s area because of the psychological impact of the film. I didn’t expect to get an R-rating, but we got one, and the guy at the ratings board loved the movie, he was “Oh, you’re gonna do great with this! This is awesome!” 

CP: The MPAA’s criteria still baffles me. 

L: They gave me an R-rating for The Woods and there’s nothing in The Woods. There’s much worse stuff on television every night that’s disgusting you know. 

CP: I hate this new term “elevated horror”, I don’t think horror should be debased in this way. 

L: Horror has been the moneymaking stepchild for a long, long time. Horror always does well, but it’s not given the artistic respect. The same thing happened to Hitchcock when he was making films, he wasn’t given artistic respect, he was just looked at as a showman, as an entertainer. It took the French to show people that no, there’s a fucking artist here. But at the same time I think there’s just as many romantic comedies made with a lack of care, as there are horror films. I think the romantic comedy is a more piss-poor genre than the horror genre. That’s part of the reason I wanna make a romantic comedy some day, you know. 

CP: And do the Lucky twist. 

L: Yeah, exactly. I’m not trying to talk down on anybody’s horror film and I’m not trying to say that my shit doesn’t stink and that my horror films are more important than other person’s horror films, ‘cos fuck I grew up on horror films. I like a good, silly, straightforward … you know? I like stuff that’s not full of shit. I like the lack of pretension in horror. 

CP: I was reading one critic’s response to The Woman, asking “Has horror gone too far?” and I was thinking, well that’s a load of bollocks. 

L: That’s horror’s job. 

CP: Outside of making a real snuff movie … 

L: … that’s a load of shit. Yeah. Go back and watch Straw Dogs, that’s a fuckin’ horror movie. 

CP: Do you think there are taboos in horror and also what are the elements a great horror movie should possess? 

L: Gosh, I dunno, I can’t really call that. I’m just trying to make stuff that has horror elements that’s interesting to me. That’s kind of a tough one to answer. I don’t have the answers. I’m just trying to make my films and I respect anybody who can make a film, as long as they’re doing it with seriousness and care. 

CP: Now the role of the husband and father in The Woman, his psychopathic behaviour, and the dark comic tone that started to emerge as the movie went along reminded me of a movie called The Stepfather that I’m a big fan of. I was curious if there was any inspiration from that?

L: Nah, I haven’t seen it. 

CP: You haven’t seen it? Interesting. 

L: But that part probably comes from Hitchcock. My villain in this film is very much in the Hitchcock tradition, like Shadow of a Doubt, the Joseph Cotton very clean-cut, very well-spoken, but there’s just rot underneath that surface. I’ve always liked that kind of a villain, he’s not twirling his mustache, he looks like you and me. 

CP: How important is humour in a horror movie? Can a horror movie work with little or no humour?

L: I’m sure it can work for somebody else, but for my personal tastes, I need levity in there, because I have to live with this thing every day working on it, and if it’s all just a grind and it’s just awful, and it’s all just one note then … That’s why The Road didn’t work for me, it’s all just doom and gloom, there’s no hope in it, there’s no chance for hope, there’s no sense of humour. It’s just not something I’m interested in making. I think life is ups and downs; it’s not all just one thing. I love humour, and I have a really dark sense of humour with my friends. 

CP: That’s the best kind, not just slap-in-the-face-here’s-the-joke, but character based, cumulative. 

L: It’s humour out of discomfort or absurdity. 

CP: Exactly. Coming back to sequels, obviously The Woman is different than your average sequel, it’s quite self-contained, what’s your opinion on remakes and Hollywood’s increasingly lazy attitude with remakes and sequels? 

L: It’s gotten really bad, like it’s overtaken everything, brand names is all there is, like “I don’t wanna try this new soda, I wanna try the one that says Coke on it,” you know? But look at how many great remakes there’ve been. Look at The Thing, look at Cape Fear, there’s countless good ones. But it’s not something that I’m particularly interested in pursuing. It would have to be something I feel I could take to another place in my own way. Everything’s all about branding right now. I don’t know how we’re gonna get out form under that. There’s a bigger and bigger divide between independent film and studio film, and hopefully people will start getting tired of having the same crap shoved down their throat over and over again and they will start going back and seeking out these films. It always happens in cycles, it happened in the 70s, it happened in the early 90s, and it’s about to happen again. I would like to be part of a new wave as opposed to just tugging the line for the big money guys. 

CP: If you were offered a remake would there be anything that would be a deciding factor in whether you’d accept the job?

L: The political structure, especially if it was for a studio. I would have to have a lot of protection around me because I don’t make my movies by committee; I make my movies with my team, with a group of artists, not with a group of suits. There’s a lot of guys who’ll be watching your film and playing around on their Blackberrys and iPhones the entire time, not even watching the film, and then turn around and give you notes on your film, I can’t deal with people like that. So I need a layer of protection between me and that if I’m ever gonna go into that world again. 

CP: Yeah. So, how likely is a sequel to The Woman? The Family, maybe? 

L: The only thing that will dictate that is how well it does. And it has to be the right idea for me to want to be involved. I’m going to do a noir film next. 

CP: Will that be an original screenplay?

L: It’s based on a Ketchum novella that I’ve been optioning for about ten years called The Passenger. So I’m really excited about that, but it will be a real change of pace for me, a much more fast-paced film. All my films so far are kind of slow burns that build to this crazy crescendo. This one’s gonna be hard to keep up with. I’m gonna use a lot of the same people, the same team. I’ve got the script on the operating table right now, kinda Lucky-izing it. 

CP: I love noir.

L: Yeah, me too. I like Ida Lupino’s The Hitch-Hiker; I’m looking at a lot of that early stuff. At that time those movies had real bite, and were gritty, so I wanna do something in a modern context, that’s from that same tradition. 

CP: Nice. Well, that’s about it. 

L: Okay, well, was good talking with you, it went by quick. 

CP: It did, it did. I mean with beer in hand … 

L: Yeah, we could talk all day … 


Lucky McKee went on to direct a second version of All Cheerleaders Die (2013), which he originally co-directed on video in 2001, and one of the ten segments in Tales of Halloween (2015). 

Interview with Gareth Edwards, writer/director of Monsters

This interview was originally published online in November 2010.

Cult Projections: Firstly, fantastic film, one of my films of the year actually.

Gareth: Oh wow, thank you.

CP: Yeah. I’ve seen it twice and I’ll probably go back a third time.

G: Oh, wow! So did you make connections and all that with the end …?

CP: I was gonna come to that! But I went in on my first screening not knowing anything, apart from the fact that this was your first feature and you had a background in special effects. I was really, really impressed. 

G: Thank you. 

CP: How old are you and what age did you become involved in the movie industry?

G: I’m actually immortal; I’ve been living on earth since the Roman times.

CP: [chuckling]

G: I’d love that to be true. No, actually it would be a curse. 

CP: [laughing]

G: Thirty-five. What was the second part, sorry?

CP: What age did you become involved in the movie industry?

G: I think when I was two and I saw Star Wars. I was involved from that point on. 

CP: So was I. I was nine. When did you first start working with digital visual effects? Did you ever work with traditional optical effects, or did you by-pass that altogether? 

G: I was always interested in effects. Like anyone who likes the kinds of films that I like and you buy all those magazines like Starlog. There was very few growing up. There was Starlog, and there was Fangoria. There was very, very few behind the scenes stuff. Cinefx. And ‘cos of the love of film, you just learn about effects, but it was never something I wanted to do for a living, but I was really fascinated by them, and it was more going to film school and living with my flatmate who was doing computer animation and just seeing how powerful … just quizzing him so much, getting my head around; what is computer animation? What is the difference between 3D and 2D? And by the end I felt like I had a quite a good handle on it. And I couldn’t get a job after graduation, just so I just learned computers as a Plan B, so if no one came along and gave me the money to go make a movie I could, if I learned this stuff, then possibly I could go and make one myself, and it just took a lot longer than I wanted it to, and I ended up getting side-tracked doing computer graphics. I was never ever into computer graphics for the sake of it. I always just wanted to make films, and it was just a tool, and so I felt like I was completely going off course. Like I did one of those things where, you know when you’re in traffic and you think, “Oh my God, this is not moving at all, I’ll take a short cut, I know, maybe this road connects to the other one, and you start going, and it’s a one-way system and suddenly you’re like, oh my God, I’ve made a really bad decision, it’s going to take me longer than if I just stayed in the traffic,” and then suddenly, luckily I ended up on this slip road that went straight into the exact path I wanted. It all worked out really well by the end. But for awhile I was thinking I’d wasted, like, a decade. 

CP: I know you’re a fan of Spielberg’s films, what other science fiction films have inspired you?

G: Loads … Obviously Star Wars. All the usual suspects, like James Cameron, John Carpenter, Joe Dante, Robert Zemeckis, all those sort of people, but I’m really into B-movies - 

CP: Yep.

G: - and 1950s, and 60s. I call them B-movies, they’re really A-movies. Forbidden Planet’s not a B-movie, it’s an A-movie, but if I showed it someone who didn’t know anything, they’d go, “Oh that’s just some silly B-movie.”

CP: So would The Id be one of your favourite cinema monsters then?

G: I guess … I guess so. It’s a great example of not showing anything. The best monster movies tend to try and hide everything. I love that movie. I love the cosiness of it. I quite like Star Trek, the original series. I’m not a big fan of all the new stuff, but I like the original series, ‘cos it makes me feel cosy, and it makes me feel like a kid. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I like Lost in Space, the original. I just have this fantasy about being marooned on a planet. I just can’t think of anything better. It would be the ultimate way to live your life, to crash land on the planet and have to survive. I don’t know what it is about that? [pause] Is it a weird thing?

CP: No, no, no. [pause] You’ve probably heard this a lot; comparisons to District 9, but I find it curious in District 9 the aliens are called “prawns” and you’ve got a monster I’m calling an octo-crab. What brought you to that kind of look for the monster?

G: It was all based on the science behind that there could be aliens on Europa, which is Jupiter’s moon. And they’d be at the bottom of the ocean there and there’d be a sample taken. So for me they were from Europa, at the bottom of the ocean. So I looked at loads and loads of stuff. This is a cop-out thing to say, but I wasn’t trying to re-invent the wheel when it came to the creature design. Like Giger. H.R. Giger did Alien. It’s just phenomenal, that design. But it’s still a human in a suit. And it’s based on nature, it’s based on a penis, it’s based on teeth, and it’s based on insects. They reason it freaks you out is because it’s tapping into things in nature that freak you out; mixing things that warp your head a bit. Everything’s based on nature. For me the creature I wanted to be quite “classic”, to use a cop-out phrase. If you look at an episode of The Simpsons, if a giant monster turns up from space it’ll look like a tentacled thing, ‘cos that’s what everyone expects to see. Like a modern version of that. And also in my film they have to reach around inside closed spaces so it kinda felt like the way to go, that they’re from deep sea. [pause] The creatures in District 9 remind me more of insects. 

CP: Yeah … I certainly agree that the deep sea thing taps into a primal “what’s in the abyss coming up.”

G: The Abyss was a bit of an influence, actually. The bio-luminescence. How to make something slightly scary, but also slightly beautiful, which is a contradiction really. 

CP: But a nice one. 

G: Yeah. The more contradictions there are, the more interesting things are. Everything’s about contrast, the greater the contrast, the more attracted you are to look. 

CP: Primarily your film is a relationship film. Dare I ask it, but have there been any romance films that you’ve liked?

G: Sure. Lost in Translation is one that definitely influenced this film. Brief Encounter, which is David Lean, a British Film, is very much like Lost in Translation, but back in the past. My editor and I were trying to find what’s the best way to describe this film and with Brief Encounter being such an influence in a way, he said - and I agreed - if you weren’t gonna call it Monsters you should call it Brief Encounter of the Third Kind

CP: [chuckles] Nice. 

G: And he was like, “Damn it, that’s what it is, isn’t it?”

CP: Great acting aside, which your film has, on-screen chemistry is really important, and the one between Whitney and Scoot is very convincing and I believe they were a real-life couple during the shoot. Was that one of the reasons why you cast them?

G: Yeah, initially it was the only reason in terms of that being part of the deal. I wanted a real couple, first and foremost, and in retrospect, to give them credit, I think I was wrong, and I think they would’ve done a brilliant job if they were a couple or not. I get worried, ‘cos they are a real couple and they’re married now, people feel like what they’re witnessing is real chemistry, and it’s kinda not ‘cos all those little moments were happening in such strange situations, like the little looks were happening, like when he’s got the boxer shorts on in the middle of a crowded harbour or around a camp fire with a load of strangers with guns; all that was acting, all the poignant bits were acting. So they would’ve pulled it off a treat. But at the time, I was too nervous about leaving it to chance, I wanted some genuine chemistry. The way we shot it was a bit like a documentary, we shot the hell out of it and really went on that journey, and I didn’t want people to have to be switching it on and off, I wanted it to be always on, so we could shoot all the time, so if there was some random moment I could just capture it. That’s why I wanted a real couple. And they had a little pact that if they made it through the film without falling out, then they’d get married, so … 

CP: How much of the dialogue was improvised? 

G: A hell of a lot. We had all the points of each scene that they had to hit, and to just say it how you want, except for the scenes where they chat, and so the chats were very free. And in terms of those there would be pointers; talk about your friends back home, talk about what you’re gonna do tomorrow, and there would be these little hints, but they weren’t rigid guide lines and the actors could do what they wanted, and they’d just come up with stuff. They’d pull anecdotes from real life and we’d just shoot an hour and then we’d condense that in the edit, and cherry pick our favourite moments, and get it down to like a minute. 

CP: You got wonderful performances from all the featured extras, especially the ferry ticket seller. How difficult was it working with the locals in regards to performance? Did any of them have any film experience prior to that?

G: Most of them didn’t. He didn’t. He hadn’t acted in his life, as far as I know. We met him just before filming. I found it really easy. The trick is, you’ve got to let go, and not tell them what to do. All you want is something that feels really real, it’s not that I want specifically this. Put it this way; if I said “Can you put your piece of paper down on the table, get angry with me and tell me you need more time for the interview.” If I got you to do that it would look really fake. That’s not you. It would look false. So instead I just gotta make sure that the publicist comes over and says “Two more minutes.” And what you did was, which I would have never though of was, “Did she say ‘Two’ or ‘Ten’” - 

CP: [chuckles]

G: How you specifically arrive at telling the audience that, about how you feel, I don’t care, I just need you to tell the audience in a way that feels real. And so it was a case of going, “Look, this is what you need to do, I don’t care how you do it, so don’t sell that ticket for less than five grand, that’s five grand that will feed your family, and if he doesn’t pay for it, that guy there will, so screw him, and that’s all he needed to know,” and Scoot played with him and got some great stuff. 

CP: What was the camera you used, the make and model?

G: Sony EX3 with a Letus Ultimate Adapter on the front and a Nikon SLR 50mm lens. 

CP: How many crew were involved in the principal shoot? 

G: For the main core part of the shoot there was four people in the van; that’s me on camera, sound man, line producer, and Spanish-speaking equivalent. Obviously we had a driver, Scoot and Whitney, the actors. Back at the motel there was Colin, the editor, Justin, his assistant. And that’s how we did most of it. And on a few days we would increase the numbers, if we needed help, like around the camp fire, we had to build a camp fire, and things like that. 

CP: What was the real cost at the end?

G: I honestly don’t know, you’d have to speak to the producers, but it was more than $US15, 000 which was put on the internet. But it was micro-budget. I think if there was a pie-chart, the biggest chunk by a long way would be wages because I got paid a wage, the editor got paid a wage, Scoot and Whitney got paid a wage, but I don’t know what their wages were. But they cost way more than a camera, especially when you’re working on something for a good year or more, that’s gonna add up more than a flight and a motel. I mean, that was small fry to just staying alive for however long it took to finish the film. We weren’t on crazy money. 

WARNING! CONTAINS ENDING SPOILER!

CP: So …. Is Sam dead? Or is she just unconscious? 

G: [smirks]

CP: It gives the title a tragic irony. It brings a resonance. 

G: I like that when people come the first time they’ve come for a monster movie, so they’re just looking at the creature, because, oh my God, they’re gonna show it, oh my God, we’re gonna see it, they’re kinda looking at that, and they’re not looking at the people, like they’ve sacrificed the people for the monster, which is funny ‘cos it’s kinda what happens in the film and I like the fact that we managed to play that trick and it’s good that the title has that meaning to you ‘cos it’s what we wanted and that’s why we kept the word “monsters” but if it gets marketed simplistically and everyone just sees the action scenes, they expect District 9 and Cloverfield, instead they get this strange hybrid of love story meets road movie meets alien invasion thing.

CP: Which I love, it’s great. [pause] It’s polarising audiences which is a shame ‘cos the younger generation are not getting it.

G: They just need to get laid – 

CP: [chuckles]

G: - and then it’ll make sense. 

CP: Yeah. [pause] I really look forward to what you do next. 

G: Yeah, cheers, thank you. 

 

NB: Gareth went on to direct Godzilla, and will be directing the sequel, as well as helming the Star Wars spin-off rebel movie Rogue One

Q&A with Stephen Thrower

NB: This interview was originally published online in November 2010. 

CULT PROJECTIONS: You state on your blog, Seven Doors Hotel [ED: Now defunct] that you’ve been a dedicated fan of horror since the age of 6. What movie(s) transformed you into a horrorphile? 

STEPHEN: It was a TV show, actually, Doctor Who. When I was a kid it was going through a particularly scary patch. I jumped in when Jon Pertwee started playing the Doctor and on into the early Tom Baker years, when the stories could be quite terrifying for a ’family show’. At 6 or 7 or 8 years old, you don't notice things like wobbly sets and the seams up the monsters' backs, you just buy into what you see, and invest your imagination. I've always loved that show, and I'm very glad that it's been successfully revived recently. Next, I started looking for books that would give me the same buzz, and as luck would have it I discovered the stories of H.P. Lovecraft in the local library when I was about twelve years old, in the old yellow-cover Gollancz editions.  I was a fairly precocious reader and I immersed myself in M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood, Bram Stoker, Clark Ashton Smith. I found the Gollancz edition of Robert Aickman's short story collection Cold Hand in Mine when I was about thirteen and that really haunted me. Around the same time I came across a series of paperbacks called “The Pan Books of Horror Stories”. The early editions included classic horror stories like The Monkey's Paw and such, but around Volume 6 or 7 they started to zoom in on extreme violence, grisly stories designed to provoke disgust and repulsion as much as terror. I have to say I lapped these up too. As a consequence, I've never taken seriously the idea of a divide between suggestive horror and explicit horror, because I was steeped in both from an early age and always appreciated the pleasures of both. 

CP: Can you remember your first horror on VHS (or Betamax even?) Did you sneak into movies that were age restricted by lying about your age? If so what was the first “adult” horror movie you saw, on VHS and at the cinema?

S: As a kid I was never allowed to see late night horror movies on TV. I only started seeing them when I was in my mid-teens, when I had some money in my pocket. The first real horror movie I went to see was David Cronenberg's The Brood, which came to the UK in 1980 when I was sixteen. That blew me away. In fact, I left the cinema with the most appalling stomach-ache because of the tension - I was knotted with anxiety watching it! But that day opened the floodgates. Basically, as soon as I had money of my own, I went to see everything! I don't think there's a single horror movie released in the UK between 1980 and 1984 that I didn't see: good, bad or wretchedly boring! When video came along, I'd just left school and got a job, so I had the money and the freedom to really immerse myself. I think the first two videos I rented were I Spit on Your Grave and Tobe Hooper's Death Trap (aka Eaten Alive). Loved them both.

CP: At what age did you first become entranced by Euro horror and exploitation? Can you name any specific movies that facilitated this obsession? 

S: The first European horror film I saw was Lucio Fulci's Zombie Flesh-Eaters some time in 1980, quickly followed by Mario Bava's Shock on a double bill with The Beyond. I fell in love with all three. In that year alone I must have seen a well over a hundred other films, but the European ones really reached out and grabbed me. Of course I've written about Fulci in my book Beyond Terror, but I should stress that Mario Bava's Shock was a massive influence on my ideas about horror cinema. It starts out within a psychological framework - paranoia, psychosis, murder, repression, etc. - then tips into the supernatural. Or does it? Perhaps we're simply seeing a visual representation of the way madness is passed from parents to children. Add to this all the thrills of a progressive-rock-meets-avant-garde soundtrack, and I was hooked.

CP: In one or two words describe what it is that attracts you to each of these directors’ movies: Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Jess Franco, Andrzej Zulawski, Alejandro Jodorowsky.

S: Argento: cruelty, style. Fulci: rage, melancholy. Franco: freedom, delirium. Zulawski: passion, madness. Jororowsky: spectacle, comedy.  

CP: What compelled you to write a book on the movies of Lucio Fulci?

S: Mainly it was because no one had given the best of his films the respect I thought they deserved. They had some enthusiastic supporters in the fanzines, myself included, but I thought there was room for closer scrutiny, and since I loved the films so much I took a stab at it. It's hard, because when I wrote the book it burned a hole where the films used to be, and now I look back at them like someone who's discovered a house they used to live in has been bulldozed. It's strange. I used to watch them all the time but I find it very hard to re-watch Fulci now. It's one of the downsides of writing a book on someone; it can leave you with a bit of a scorched hole where the pleasure used to be. Hopefully it'll scar over and I'll get back into them some day!

CP: What is it about sex and death that brings the sexual elements within exploitation and the viscera and violence in horror movies so close together? Are there any taboos left within cinema? Are there any movies you’ve seen that push the boundaries too far? 

S: Sex and death are like beans on toast, bacon and eggs - inseparable! The French have been saying it for centuries, so who are we to argue? Taboos are always shifting. I don't have 'taboos' as such when it comes to cinema - just things I don't like, or things I don't agree with. I have my own notion of good and bad taste, and I can be disgusted by something that I consider to be stupid or fascistic or mean-spirited. But as for 'going too far', the only way someone can go too far, for me, is if they kill for real.

I saw A Serbian Film recently, and apparently it's upset a lot of people, but to be honest I was unmoved and didn't feel shocked or disturbed at all. I'm not trying to be a tough guy! I want to be moved, I want to be left quaking. I don't get a macho kick out of sitting there being ostentatiously unfazed by extreme horror. But the whole thing was too stylized and melodramatic. I was expecting something really grim, but after watching it late at night a few weeks ago I went to bed and slept without a single backward glance, much less a sleepless night. Besides, the 'taboo' elements (which I won't go into as I might spoil the film for someone) are not as new and edgy as some critics have made out. There's a scene, for instance, which essentially Chris Morris did ten years ago, in a black comedy context, on British TV! More than any of this though, the chief failing of the film for me was the sound design, which was so overdone and exaggerated it became a bore. I hate it when movies have every sudden movement accompanied by some corny Dolby-stereo 'swoosh'! And I'm sorry, but banging techno in horror films just sounds dated to me. It comes from this alt-cultural place where 'transgressive' music taste and film taste have fused into a sort of orthodoxy; I don't have 'out-there' associations with that sort of muscular, pulverising techno beat. It just reminds me of trying to have conversations in deafening 1990s gay clubs!

CP:  Since the publication of Eyeball Compendium in 2003 (which featured the best work from the five issues of Eyeball magazine spanning 1989-1998) the European horror scene has exploded; a new wave of filmmakers have emerged, especially from France and Spain, who are providing modern horror with a visceral and emotional intensity not seen since, what I affectionately term, the Scarlet Age of Modern Horror (the mid-70s to the mid-80s). What are your thoughts on this new wave of brutalism?

S: I'm not sure how much of a wave there is, but I have seen a few impressive European horror films in recent years. I thought Martyrs was outstanding. Calvaire was beautiful and funny and so black. Some of the others have felt less fulfilling. The best has to be Irreversible. Gaspar Noe is a law unto himself, and Irreversible was a beautiful and terrifying masterpiece. I still haven't seen Enter the Void, which I'm really looking forward to. 

CP:  Contrary to the European new wave Hollywood has, over recent years, been sanitizing horror movies more and more, forcing directors to deliver PG-13 versions, and remaking cult classics that have virtually none of the shock power of the originals (with very few exceptions). What are your thoughts on this?

S: No, I don't agree that Hollywood has been doing what you say. Saw and Hostel are as grisly as any 1970s horror flick, and 'soft' horror has been with us since forever. What's different is the vibe. The newer American gore films have a mainstream vibe, because the mainstream has caught up with what used to be the fringe pleasures like gore and sadism. What they can't process, though, is the randomness, the odd construction of plots written by amateur writers, the illogic, the lack of stable third acts and character arcs and all that crap. The skills involved in making horror have been quantised, standardised. I miss that accidental magic you'd find when you had untrained actors blundering through bizarre scenes that had shock value because they felt like a new form of reality. Who cares if they saw someone's face off? Content is not the frontier any more, form is the frontier. It's not a genuine shock to see someone's eye poked out in a film any more. I remember seeing Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou for the first time, projected before a Cabaret Voltaire gig back in 1980 I think, and when that razor-blade cut through the eyeball you felt as if your world was changing. Nowadays, kids are just as likely to see that horrendous Russian snuff thing on the internet. As for Hollywood, I think the Hollywood machine is reaching a position, with films like Avatar, where pure size, massiveness, the biggest screen, the most expensive illusion, is all they can offer that people can't get elsewhere. The filmmakers who peddle this stuff buy off their liberal guilt at spending the national debt of the Third World on SPFX by parading 'socially responsible' themes, but the content is old hat. It's all about form now: video gaming, Youtube clips; fragmentary excitements.

CP: You were a full-time member of seminal electronic industrial outfit Coil, a band synonymous with producing nightmarish soundscapes and dark music. What releases did you specifically work on? Those first few years of editing Eyeball magazine and composing with Coil must have been an intense period, any notable anecdotes you care to share? 

S: I was in Coil from Scatology in 1984 to Stolen and Contaminated Songs in 1992, so I did five albums and various odds and ends. Were we nightmarish? I thought we beautiful! We did an album in 1987 called Horse Rotorvator, which was heavily influenced by the encroaching AIDS situation, but even then... I mean, covering Tainted Love at the height of AIDS panic, Daily Mail anti-gay headlines and such, I think we were taking a stand against something really evil. And knowing that we were speaking not just to the mainstream but to the fringes of the gay community... you tailor your remarks to your likely audience, and we were sure we were not addressing the moral majority - they would never come within a mile of us! The people we were reaching out to were those already at the front line, already developing their private coping strategies in this blizzard of hate from the mainstream media. Tainted Love was a sort of beacon to the awkward squad in gay culture. They understood that we were playing ironically with the ideas and the words and the format. We received some hate mail from gay individuals who felt, wrongly, that the song attacked gay people, and yet a lot of those letters came from gay men safely ensconced within the status quo. Whereas gay outsiders understood what was going on, and they got the sense of humour even in such dark times.   

CP: I presume you worked on the unofficial Hellraiser soundtrack. Tell me briefly, what exactly happened, from its inception to its rejection?

S: I met Clive at the old Forbidden Planet bookshop in London just after The Books of Blood came out. We ended up going for a drink and a chat. I played Clive the first Coil LP, Scatology, and it clicked with him straight away, so I arranged for him to visit Jhon and Sleazy, and they all got along well. Sleazy showed Clive his collection of hardcore S&M mags from the USA, 'Piercing Quarterly' for instance, which featured extreme genital piercings, penile bifurcation and the like. Clive was mesmerised! It came out in the imagery of Hellraiser (or 'Sado-Masochists from Beyond the Grave' as he liked to call it!) There was no brief from the film studio when we first became involved, just Clive, who was excited by the avant-garde aspect of what we did, plus he was looking for something lush and romantic too. In Coil we often worked with string quartets and careful harmonic arrangements hand-in-hand with weird atonality, so it fell well within our capabilities. We went into the studio and did much of what eventually emerged on disc in about three or four days. These recordings were approved by Clive and we were about to add orchestral instruments, when the news came that New Line had persuaded Clive to drop us from the project.

I think the rift had its roots in the budgetary issues. When the early rushes came back, the special effects (the resurrected Frank, for instance) were not up to scratch. New Line were unhappy with the effects but after they saw a rough cut of half the film, they realised that Clive was making something with a lot of commercial potential. Unfortunately for us, they persuaded Clive to sacrifice his attachment to Coil in favour of a more conventional Hollywood-symphonic score, and in return pumped in more money for reshoots. It was frustrating because the recordings we released as The Unreleased Themes For Hellraiser were only half-way to where they were meant to go. Our way of working at the time was to do 'first passes' electronically, and then bring in other musicians to re-record some parts and overdub others. Sadly, we never got that far, although I believe many Coil fans like the recordings anyway.

CP: What do you think of the cinema work of prog-rock band Goblin?

S: Glorious! Hugely influential. Their themes for Deep Red and Suspiria are touched by genius, in my opinion. So is the score for Bava's Shock, by Goblin offshoot I Libra. That's possibly my favourite of them all. Oh, and the main theme to Contamination is so exciting and blissful, like musical Ecstasy! I'm very much in favour of progressive rock in a horror context, I think it has complexity which helps to keep the mind alert. I'm not a big fan of ELP, but Keith Emerson's score for Inferno is fantastic. It really reaches into the corners and enhances all the emotional subtleties of the imagery.

CP: Apart from the music scored for the surreal horror Death Bed: The Bed That Eats, are there any further plans to compose for movies? Or collaborations with directors, like Chris Cunningham for example. 

S: We're always open to suggestions in this field. I'm sure something will come about. 

CP: What are your thoughts on the use of sound and music in the movies of David Lynch? Are their any other directors whose use of sound and/or music particularly impresses you? 

S: Lynch creates total sound environments more than soundtracks. His influence on film and music has been enormous. I remember when the soundtrack to Eraserhead came out on an LP back in 1981 or 1982, I used to lie on the floor in my first flat, in the dark, with the stereo speakers positioned next to my ears like huge headphones, and just live in that recording for forty five minutes. Beautiful. He has an incredible talent for sound design, and for the way context plays strange games with content. I have complete respect for him as an artist, there are very few people working in cinema today who have this man's talent for making new worlds on film. 

CP: Have you done any screenwriting and/or filmmaking outside of your work as a film critic?

S: Ask me that in a year's time, and hopefully the answer will be yes! It's too early to say, but I'm hoping this will happen in the next twelve months … Best not to jinx it by talking about it too much yet though.

CP: How did the publication Nightmare USA come about? Have you always shared the same love of American horror and exploitation as you have for European? What are some of the more important American horror movies in the history of the modern horror movie? What distinction can you make between American horror and Euro horror that excites you about each?

S: I always liked certain kinds of American horror films, but for quite a while I was very intensely obsessed with European horror. I always remained keen on the low budget stuff such as The Driller KillerTexas Chain Saw MassacreDeath TrapI Spit on Your Grave. I always really loved the slasher movies too, despite the fact that they were often poo-pooed by more quality-fixated film journalists! I just love the format, regardless of whether or not the films are 'great art'. I find the post-Halloween slasher cycle of movies irresistible. As I said in Nightmare USA, if anyone ever made a 24 hour slasher film, I'd be first in line to see it! When I started my magazine Eyeball, I wrote only about European movies, but it wasn't because hated all American horror films, it was really just a way of carving a distinctive niche for myself, at a time when the horror fanzine market was very busy and crowded with titles. I suppose the big difference between the sorts of European horror films I like and the American ones is that the Europeans were nearly always art designed, quite lavishly, even the sleazy ones! Something like Fulci's The Beyond is basically an arty exploitation movie, but it was shot on soundstages at De Paolis studios in Rome, with great technicians, a studio's worth of skill and artistry behind the scenes. Many of its American counterparts are shot almost entirely on location, with no money for expensive set dressing, and therefore only a rudimentary attention to art design. So the American films have greater verisimilitude, while the European ones have greater artifice. That's a generalisation, of course! 

CP: As a hard-copy collector I read a disheartening article in Rue Morgue magazine recently on the future of DVDs (in particular special editions, and rare movies). The writer stated that at best the future is uncertain, as companies move toward releasing movies as compressed digital files, and at worst, the future is grim, as it will only take one or two major companies to cease releasing movies on DVD and a domino effect will occur. Surely there’s no longevity in Blu-ray either. I’m assuming you’re a collector, what are your thoughts on this? 

S: Well, the real reason for this is illegal filesharing and downloading. It's so prevalent now that it's only a matter of time before the smaller DVD companies go belly up. It's a shame, but since it's now so cheap and easy for everyone to basically upload their DVD collection onto their own blogs, it's not even something that can be dealt with by prosecuting the larger pirate sites. I don't see how the drift towards everyone wanting everything for free can be reversed, short of incredibly draconian legislation.

CP:  Worse still is the steady disappearance of cinemas playing cult classics and grindhouse flicks (simply because the prints are becoming too damaged to play). Can you lament any further on this?

S: Not really, not without being a hypocrite! I hardly ever go to the cinema any more. I live outside London, in a small coastal town, and the only films I can see here are mainstream blockbusters. I've adjusted to a DVD-only lifestyle. I do miss the thrill of seeing sleazy or horrific films in the cinema, but my life has changed a lot in the past ten years and I'm no longer as hooked on the big screen experience as I once was.  

CP: Have you visited any of the big horror conventions or festivals (FanTasia, Festival of Fear, Sitges, World Horror Con, etc), and if so which ones and what are the best? 

S: No, haven't been to any.

CP: Do you have favourite sub-genre of modern horror and if so what and why? Zombies, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, aliens, monsters, giallo, slashers …? Do you place more importance on horror as opposed to terror, or vice versa?

S: I'm usually more interested in 'the evil that men do' than the evil that ghosts and ghoulies do, although I enjoy supernatural subject-matter if it's well written. Zombies used to be a special case, because they straddled both worlds somehow. But they've been run into the ground through overuse in the past ten years. I wish Romero would drop it with the zombie schtick, frankly. I thought his last three were pretty dreadful. I expect they're the only films anyone will give him money to make, but still...

CP: What recent horror/nightmare movies have tickled your fancy? 

S: The best new horror film I've seen in years is a Hungarian movie called The Seventh Circle, by Árpád Sopsits, about a suicidal cult among teenagers. Apart from that there's nothing much new or recent that's appealed to me, except for the films I mentioned earlier. The best things I've watched again recently were Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville, Jess Franco's Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein, Jess Franco's Lorna the Exorcist, and Erle C. Kenton's House of Frankenstein.

CP: I’m playing Devil’s advocate here, but if you could pick two or three movies you’d like to see remade, what would they be and who would direct?

S: I'd like to see The Bell of Hell remade by Todd Haynes. Maybe like Claudio Guerin-Hill he'd fall off the fucking clock tower and then we'd be rid of him. With the Catholic Church having been caught red-handed these past few years covering up child abuse, perhaps a remake of Lucio Fulci's Don't Torture a Duckling, directed by Martin Scorsese? 

CP: And finally, are you able to list (not necessarily in any order) your all-time top ten favourite nightmare movies?

S:

1. Possession (Andrzej Zulawski)

2. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre  (Tobe Hooper)

3. A Virgin Among the Living Dead (Jess Franco)

4. Martin (George Romero)

5. Irreversible (Gaspar Noe)

6. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick)

7. Inland Empire (David Lynch)

8. Breaking the Waves (Lars Von Trier)

9. The Brood (David Cronenberg)

10. Funny Games (Michael Haneke)

CP: Thank you, Stephen! 

Since participating in this interview Stephen has co-written a comprehensive book on on another of his cinematic heroes, the late Jess Franco. 

Q&A with Tristan Risk

Cult Projections: What’s your earliest horror movie experience? Was it something on late night TV? Something on VHS?

Tristan: Actually, my horror roots come from, like so many other things, an unintentional beginning. When I was a child MTV was just starting to dip a curious toe in our pop culture tides. Music videos were beginning to become more incorporated with musical artists, and it was Michael Jackson’s Thriller directed by John Landis (with Rick Baker on the SFX, thank you very much) that was my “ah-ha!” moment. I didn’t really know zombies (until Hulk Hogan’s Rock and Wrestling, where there was that one episode where they built the theme park on the graveyard and zombies showed up) before that. But I was in the video’s thrall. I’d hide round the corner of the living room, peering in at the television, unable to look away. It wasn’t until I was trying to “transform” as MJ did in the beginning sequences that my poor mother thought I must have been having some kind of seizure. Convinced that I had shapeshifted into a cat creature, I did what any small child worth their salt in my situation would do: I bit my mom on the ankle. After that, I was hooked. I loved scaring other kids from that moment on, and what would lead me to a childhood of getting teased for my interests as a result of it, but as an adult, I can say my affection for the macabre ran DEEP and still does. I have since stopped biting people’s ankles and blaming Michael Jackson, though.

CP: When did you first get the acting bug? Did you do any formal training? Theatre?

Tristan: My first taste of the stage came when I was seven. I was hosting my grandfather’s church show and the folks thought it’d be cute if my seven year old self emceed. I’ll be honest, it was really hard giving up the mic after the show, and I was, let’s just say, a theatrical child. If my parents had a dinner party, my bestie and I would reenact scenes from Monty Python’s Flying Circus or Are You Being Served?, whether they wanted an impromptu performance or not. Beyond a few kid’s theatre workshops, that was the extent of any formal acting training I’d had. I would just watch movies I liked and learn to imitate what I saw and then apply to different situations. I’m not really much of an actress, but I’m an excellent mimic.

CP: Name just one horror movie from each of the following decades - 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and the 00s – that you hold in very high esteem.

Tristan: 60s – The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (Hammer), 70s – The Exorcist, 80s – The Hunger, 90s – Nightbreed, 00s – American Psycho.

 CP: What was the experience like working under such elaborate prosthetic makeup for your extraordinary performance in American Mary? Would you do something like that again?

Tristan: Without hesitation. I love wearing prosthetics and I must say, given the short end of the stick that actresses tend to get as the age in the film industry, I like the idea that behind the make up and FX I am ageless. That I can tell stories and people will focus on that rather than any crow’s feet or cellulite that comes with the wisdom of years.  When people see a performer in a suit or the heavy FX they’re audience doesn’t get distracted by factors as age, race, sexuality and the like, which allows them to fully immerse themselves in the character they are watching. It’s very freeing.

CP: What’s your take on the close association of sex and death that makes the horror and exploitation genres so fascinating and alluring?

Tristan: I think sex and death have been linked to us since we started walking upright. Given the nature of horror and the physical effects it can have on us – quickened heartbeat, shortness of breath, anticipation… These are all effects we feel when aroused as well. It’s a very wonderful and primal thing to explore, and with genre exploitation films, it is also a way to thumb one’s nose at social restraints and norms.  People who gravitate towards exploitation films are more likely to be of the camp on the fringes, and enjoy the low brow. By “low brow” I mean that it’s fun, cartoonish over-the-top fun of escapism rather than something that’s aiming to be more conceptualist in execution. It allows to explore concepts that might be otherwise politically incorrect or to make fun of society’s ideas of normality and moral attitudes. It’s much the same reason I love burlesque – it gives that freedom of voice as well as just being plain old entertaining.

CP: As an actor what kind of direction do you prefer? Those that are very hands-on, demand lengthy rehearsals, and numerous takes, or perhaps those that cast quickly, are impulsive, and let you improvise whenever possible?

Tristan: I think it depends on the project. There are some scripts and I hear a really strong character voice. Other characters, the director has a really clear image in their minds, and it’s my job to become that vessel for their character. I like a collaborative effort, and those performances have always been very satisfying for me, but I’m happy to breathe life into a character I’ve been given carte blanche to do so with.  It comes down to communication with my directors, but when I love feedback. I find there tends to be nothing more that feeds the insecurity of my ilk than when we don’t know whether or not to keep doing what we are doing, so again, communication is reassuring to us to at least be aware that I’m not, you know, fucking up the film.

CP: What kind of preparation do you do for a role? Do you scrutinise other actors’ performances for inspiration, if so, what actors (male and female) do you admire?  

Tristan: If I get homework from the director, I’ll be a good student and study what they ask from me. If they give me a few inspiration points, I’ll go off and research a character on my own. If nothing else, it’s usually a good as an excuse as any to sit and marathon someone’s work and learn from more established people than me. Besides, it’s cheaper than acting classes at a film school.

CP: You’ve worked with numerous rising filmmakers (Soskia twins, Astron 6 crew, Jill Sixx, to name a few), what is it about these folk that you enjoy? Why do you think they choose you? 

Tristan: In a lot of cases, I was a fan before I was in their films. I first found out about the Soskas because I happened to see their screening at the Rio Theatre in East Vancouver and lost my heart to them. I was a HUGE Manborg fan, as it was all things of my VHS childhood dreams. So I went online and found more of their work (their shorts are on their website, I encourage you to check it out) and not only loved their work, but had the utmost respect for their DIY attitudes. With Jill, I read the script she had and it was short, sweet, and brutal, which I enjoyed.  For a first time director, she had drive and I liked that a lot. I chalk all of our moments where we’ve worked together under one common force: drive. I get a lot of people asking me how they become a director/actress/burlesque dancer etc. I never asked permission, and I never went to school or took classes for it. I just did it. I sought other people who were just doing it, and it went from there. Waiting for someone to cast you or drop a script in your lap is like waiting for the right mate/job/house to come along, and people risk setting themselves up for disappointment. Will everyone who has a go at it achieve a level of celebrity or cult status? Maybe. Maybe not, but then that’s not the point if you are an artist and you have something you want to say. But I have a lot of respect for people who go out and do their own thing instead of tugging their forelocks waiting to be discovered. 

CP: Your upcoming resume is looking very busy! What do you look for in a screenplay and character in order to agree to do the project? Does a director’s inexperience bother you? Are there scripts you’ve turned down because of content you objected to?

Tristan: I like interesting concepts, fresh ideas, good writing. Sometimes just reading that from a script, it can be tricky to visualise without being familiar with the director’s previous work. If they have no previous work to draw from, sometimes you just have to take a chance. I will shy away from films if I feel a character is too similar to an established character I’ve already played, but I’ll usually talk to a director and see about working to make it it’s own entity, and if they are willing to have a dialogue, then it’s game on.  I don’t shy away from first time directors, ever. Everyone starts somewhere. Someone (well TWO someones) took a chance on me once, and I’ve never forgotten it. I at least like to give people a chance to fuck up first before I will just write them off.

CP: Name five favourite Canadian horror movies.

Tristan: American Mary doesn’t count, right? Probably not, but I usually am pretty biased when it comes to all things Soska, let’s just say… but I’ll do my best to keep at least somewhat balanced … Dead Hooker In A Trunk (okay, I totally lied), Scanners, Ginger Snaps, Father’s Day, My Bloody Valentine [Ed: Man, I love Ginger Snaps and My Bloody Valentine].

CP: If there were one character from any source material that you’d love to play in a movie adaptation, who would it be? Who would be your dream director?

Tristan: Geez, how much time do you have? I’d love to play Lessa of Anne McCaffery’s Dragonriders, if it ever got turned into a film directed by Peter Jackson. I’d love to play Excalibur’s Rachel Summers or Kitty Pryde in a Marvel film adaptation with James Gunn at the helm. ANYTHING by Clive Barker with Jovanka Vuckovic behind the camera. And while I’m dreaming here, I’d like a pony, too.

CP: What upcoming project are you particularly excited about?

Tristan: Absolutely! I am extremely pleased, heading into 2016 to be working on Elias Ganster’s Alya which I’ve been excited about since the script came into my paws, the release of James Bickert’s Frankenstein Created Bikers, Luchagore’s Madre Di Dios, Izzy Lee’s Innsmouth and Scott Schirmer’s Harvest Lake.  From a live performance place, I’m excited about upcoming shows and tours with my circus performance group, The Caravan Of Creeps, as well! Featuring performers from Cirque Du Soleil, two world record holders, and things to induce shock and awe, I’m very excited for all our upcoming adventures together in 2016.

CP: Thank you Tristan!



Q&A with Jessica Cameron, director of Mania

Cult Projections: You’ve acted in over seventy productions, what made you decide to want to direct? Where there any specific movies that inspired you? What is it about horror that appeals to you as a director? 

Jessica: Honestly I never initially wanted to direct, at all. I had co-written Truth or Dare and my team and I had made a short list of directors who we felt would do a great job. Alas half of those directors wanted to tone down the script, which was something I refused to do. The second half needed to push the shooting dates due to schedule conflicts which meant we would have to recast, and since we had written the script for most of the actors I didn’t want to do it without them. My team suggested that I go behind the camera to direct since I knew and loved the material so very much. I did and have no regrets. I learned a lot, had a great time and now try to direct at least one film a year, it helps me to make sure that I am involved with content that I love.

CP: How easy or difficult was it to get Truth or Dare financed and made?

Jessica: Financing was not as hard as I thought. I raised some with private investors then additional funds via crowd funding. Crowd funding was harder then I thought, though I loved the ability to connect with the fans all around the world. The ability to have them come along for the ride was powerful and they were, and are, a constant source of support.

CP: As a director making a horror movie, what part of pre-production, what part of principal photography, and what part of post-production do you find easiest and hardest?

Jessica: Truthfully, each aspect is hard in its own way. For me pre-production has the benefit that its overall calmer, as the team is smaller and you have greater control of everything, and not so much can not go wrong ‘till filming. Principal photographer is harder then pre-pro as anything and everything that can go wrong on a film set usually does. You have to really think on your feet and move fast, you need a clear vision, and have to fight to make that vision a reality. The hardest for me is post-production; as I could tinker with a film in post for years, which, obviously, would be counter-productive, especially at the independent level, as there is just an endless amount of things that you could do. That being said, any day working on movies is a great day.

CP: The depiction of delusion and madness is often portrayed in horror movies, what are some of the ones that you love. Were there any that directly influenced or inspired Mania?

Jessica: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was a huge inspiration, I have been a fan of Michael Rooker ever since. I was blessed to speak extensively with director John McNaughton at FrightFest last year about this film and his career, that man is such an inspiration. Natural born Killers was an inspiration – more with regards to the dream sequences, which show glimpses of alternate personas. Thelma and Louise was also an inspiration, and though it’s not a horror film it does show regular women pushed over the edge of normal behaviour in a hard situation.

CP: How important is atmosphere, tone, and mood in a horror movie? How do you, as director, help to create these elements?

Jessica: It’s crucial for me in all genres of films, though in horror films it’s mandatory. A horror film is an experience; it’s a ride, a journey, a roller coaster of emotions. As a director I try to make sure that my vision is translated to film in every single aspect and to do that I have to hire the right people who are the best fit (at a price I can afford) for the film I am creating.  The DP must love the vision I want to create, as much as I do. The set decorator needs to understand my intentions and atmosphere. The FX, grips, gaffers, sound, and everyone else involved needs to be on the same page. For me filmmaking is a team effort, and it takes the right team to really sell atmosphere, tone and mood.

CP: What are your thoughts on the role of the horror filmmaker, in terms of providing fans the necessary goods, but also appealing to as broad a demographic as possible so the movie hopefully makes a profit?

Jessica: I think that marketing and branding is crucial to everyone working in the film world today. That said I don’t believe in trying to appeal to a large market if that is not “your thing”. For me I love the films that no one else is making, the films that I, as a horror fan, want to see and shake my head and wonder why it hasn’t already been created. Now the benefit is that no one else is making them, but the downside is no one else is making them. However, I am a big believer in truth and that is mandatory in everything I do, so I can only brand myself as myself. Which means I will not, nor will my films, appeal to everyone. That is ok. I actually don’t think horror films should mass appeal to everyone. Horror will, by its definition, not appeal to everyone. I think by trying to mass appeal you can far too easily turn off the horror crowd who are surrounded by a bunch of people doing the same films that are trying to mass appeal to the world. I think knowing what type of filmmaker you are and making art that reflects that, is the key to longevity in the horror genre.

CP: Are there still taboos left in the horror genre, and if so, what? What movies have you enjoyed that pushed the boundaries?

Jessica: According to the mainstream public much of the horror genre is taboo. However, I think within the genre the only thing that’s really off limits are snuff films, or the actual filming of a real human/animal getting hurt or killed on screen. I love Martyrs, which to many people pushes multiple boundaries, but I think it is a spectacular film. Yes, it is a hard watch, but the torture depicted is the whole point of the film itself, and I do not find it excessive for that reason. Oldboy is another favorite of mine (the original, obviously).

CP: What’s your take on performance within the horror movie genre; do you like to give actors (including yourself) the room for improvisation? Do you rehearse much, or at all?

Jessica: Allowing good actors room to really own their characters and improvise helps a project tremendously, I encourage it on my sets. As an actor I know how much work goes into crafting a character and when the actor has done that work and is in that headspace they should have room to play around. I rehearse as much as scheduling allows. For Truth or Dare we rehearsed every night before the shoot the next day. For Mania there was little time for rehearsing, so much of it was done while camera and lights were getting set up, as we blocked the scenes. That being said, I think the more rehearsing the better.

 CP: If you could have remake any movie and have your dream cast, what would it be and whom would it include?

Jessica: I would love to remake Salo, or 120 Days of Sodom. Although I love this film, and appreciate the fact that it is very 70s in its style, I would love to remake it in a more vicious tone, and show it from the POV of the captors. I really wanted to know more about them and the first film is quite vague with who they are and their motives. In a perfect world my captors cast would be led by Jamie Lee Curtis, Vera Farmiga, Sheri Moon Zombie, Michael Rooker, Doug Bradley, and Jeffrey Combs. I would love to see Kiernan Shipka, Evan Bird, Ty Simpkins as victims. For a wild card I would like to throw in Miley Cyrus too, if for no other reason than I suspect horror fans would like to see her fighting to survive. Obviously that is a dream cast, but dreams happen in Hollywood ... Right?

CP: Thanks Jessica, good luck!

Mania is screening as part of Sydney’s A Night Of Horror International Film Festival, Saturday, December 5th, 11pm, Dendy Newtown. 

 

 

Q&A with Enzo Tedeschi, writer/producer/director/editor, and founder of Deadhouse Films

Cult Projections: What two movies from your youth can you single out that represent that moment for the science fiction and for the horror genre? Where did you see these movies? What was it about each that impressed you so much?

Enzo: The first would have to be Alien. My father was a projectionist that used to travel around to social clubs screening 16mm prints of films for them. I remember the time he had Alien – I must have been eight or something – and I was desperate to see it. He put it on in his little theatrette at home, with all the lights off and then left me on my own to watch. I didn’t make it through the opening scene on the ship. Petrified out of my wits by the music and the mood created. Since then, that film has had a particular thing for me, let alone after I managed to watch it through for the first time.

Choosing two is hard!

The other would probably have to be either The Shining or The Exorcist. Both of those films I remember distinctly from when I was young really affecting me in no small way. Both of them have the kind of deep character development that is absent from many films today, as well as taking their time with things. Both of those elements add so much weight to proceedings that they become really unsettling experiences, particularly when you’re confronted with the hardcore stuff.

CP: You’re primarily a producer and editor, but you’ve also got numerous screenwriting credits, and you’ve directed two shorts. In what order do you prefer all those roles, and why?

Enzo: I find editing a tough one to top, as I’ve been doing it for so long it is ingrained in me now. But if there was one thing that maybe tops that for me at the moment it is directing. It feels like home. And it’s a place where I feel like everything I have ever learned in all of those roles (and more) comes together in a way that is feeling right. I’m still producing because I can (and need to!), but I’m beginning to lean away from writing, especially if I’m directing, simply because I find riffing off of someone else’s pages a lot more satisfying, but also as a writer I need time in the kinds of huge swathes I don’t have right now.

CP: Considering we are currently enjoying what has been called the Golden Age of Television, what are the elements that are most important in a science fiction movie or series and what elements in a horror movie or series? What are your favourite current series (or mini-series)?

Enzo: So many shows I’ve yet to catch up on! I’m currently partway through House Of Cards and Orphan Black, they’re both great. I loved the first season of American Horror Story – I though that was some of the greatest TV I’d seen in a long while.

I don’t know that what’s necessary for good TV is all that different to what makes good film – an interesting story told through well thought-out and developed three-dimensional characters. If anything, the added challenge is that the episodic format, simply due to the number of hours of storytelling, demands more and more questions to be answered. It’s hard to leave things in any way open-ended after a couple of seasons. Often for me, the question is more interesting than the answer. I always find horror films (for example) to be far less affecting once the ‘monster’ is revealed. It’s a tough balance to strike.

CP: Many successful movies and television series have achieved great critical and audience reception even though the production values have been low. Can you always rely just on ideas, concepts, and storylines? Just how important are production values in genre filmmaking?

Enzo: I think production values are very important. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be low, particularly if they work together with the film. It’s why found footage still works for me. In the hands of filmmakers that understand how to use that particular medium or whatever you want to call it, it’s super effective. I find the super-slick and expensive looking found footage way less effective, because the production value becomes a distraction.

But all of that is secondary to a good idea, well executed. I think you can rely on that for a good film. But I’m not sure that you can rely on that for success. I guess it depends on your definition of ‘success’!

CP: Along with your colleague, Julian Harvey, you are co-credited with creating the sf web series Airlock. Tell me how the series came about? How easy or how difficult was it making the web series Airlock compared to your Found Footage horror movie The Tunnel?

Enzo: Airlock was born out of Jules and I looking for our next feature. It started as more of a procedural. A scenario where one guy was stuck hostage on a ship, watching havoc unfold on the station from a distance, helpless to do anything or warn those he knew and loved. We wanted something we could create on a modest budget yet still make interesting. It evolved considerably from there, particularly once Marc and Shiyan took over the writing.

Airlock was the most difficult experience of my career thus far. The scale of it, sets, CGI, a tiny shooting schedule… yeah it was tough. The Tunnel was shot on a similar schedule, but the aesthetic allowed us to move quickly, and we had a far smaller cast, too.

CP: What was your experience at Supanova like?

Enzo: Supanova was fantastic. Pop-culture nerds are the best (I’m one of them!!) It was a blast to see the reaction to the screening, and to arrive back to our booth to find a queue of fans already waiting for everyone’s autographs. It was also a special moment for me to sit next to my son who plays one of the aliens and watch him sign posters for the fans. These are the kinds of memories I feel fortunate to be able to create for my kids due to what I do. I’m a regular attendee at Supanova Sydney, but this year was super-special.

CP: Do you believe in homage, or do filmmakers just “borrow” and “steal”?

Enzo: I totally believe in homage – I do it all the time!! However, there is a big difference between homage and theft. One works and one doesn’t. There is a lot of homage to films like Alien and The Descent in The Tunnel, but some of it is very subtle. As filmmakers we’re always very influenced by those that have come before us, but we take those ideas and make them our own. Riffing off someone is good and can be interesting. Ripping off someone is just dull and unimaginative.

CP: Tell me a little about Deadhouse Films. What was the main reason you formed the company?

Enzo: The main reason was that once Distracted Media ended, I needed something to keep pushing my endeavours through. I wanted something with a name that said genre, and that let me play in spaces and in ways we couldn’t really justify at Distracted. So far that seems to be a step that looks to be paying off.

CP: Do you plan on distributing as much as producing? Can you imagine making a horror online series, just as you’ve made an online sf series?

Enzo: I’d love to make a horror series, but it feels like a tough sell at the moment. The distribution space is a challenging one, and time will tell if that side of the business is set to grow or be shut down.

CP: What drew you to Ursula Dabrowsky’s Inner Demon to be distributed by Deadhouse Films?

Enzo: I saw Inner Demon at A Night Of Horror in 2014 and was blown away by the slick production value, but more importantly, the level of unpredicatability. It’s a film that every time I thought I had it pegged, it took a 90-degree turn. That was fun for me, and rare for a horror film. I wanted to do what I could to get that out to the world.

CP: You’ve just completed a horror anthology in association with A Night Of Horror International Film Festival, how did that come about?

Enzo: I pitched the idea to Dean Bertram that we should use the fest to curate and invite some films into an anthology feature to screen at the fest, and that it was something we could repeat each year. He agreed that it was a good idea and the rest, as they say, is history. It is so difficult to get noticed as a filmmaker, and shorts are usually the way you start. However I figured that if we could combine some really great shorts into a feature that we could create something that had a value greater than the sum of its parts, and that this would be a beneficial for everyone. It’s difficult to sell a feature, but it’s pretty much impossible to sell a short.

 CP: What’s next on the Deadhouse agenda?

Enzo: A stack of projects in development, so it will really be about which one of them gains the most momentum first. We might be making a couple of new web series next year, but there is also a feature or two that look like they might come off. We also have a VR project in the works! Exciting times!

CP: Finally, what are your top five favourite “Found Footage” flicks (other than The Tunnel)?

Enzo: Ha ha! I would never list The Tunnel as one of my favourite films!! Do you think I just sit around all day and watch my own work?? Ha ha ha! So top five FF movies …

The Blair Witch Project. Still the granddaddy of the modern FF horror as far as I’m concerned, and the subtlety with which it was tackled still gets me today on every re-watch. I know it wasn’t the first, but I feel a bigger milestone than Cannibal Holocaust in many ways.

Chronicle. An exception to the rule of “big budget and slick” found footage being less effective. Josh Trank managed to not forget that these films still need to be character-driven, and established a very clever way to break the camera free of having to be hand-held so that it didn’t break us out of the moment and allowed so many liberties with style that it made for a very refreshing FF flick.

Exhibit A directed by Dom Rotheroe is another fine example of the FF device in the hands of someone that gets it. This is a lesser-known film, but it’s a strong entry into the genre. Performances are strong, and the whole affair is quite unsettling. And not your usual splatter or monster horror fare, either. Definitely recommend for anyone looking for a hidden gem

The Taking Of Deborah Logan. Holy moly. One of my favourite films of 2014. Breathtakingly creepy performace from Jill Larson, and a straight up scary movie. Loved it! Keen to see what Adam Robitel does next!

Creep. Creepy psycho Duplass. ‘Nuff Said. So much tension created by two people on their own. So great!

Whoa, I’ve run out already? The original [REC] has to be a parting shot – huge influence on The Tunnel, and super effective spin on a well-tread genre.

 CP: Thanks Enzo!


Check out Deadhouse Films here



Q&A WITH DEAN BERTRAM, DIRECTOR OF A NIGHT OF HORROR & FANTASTIC PLANET INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Cult Projections: It's the 9th year of A Night of Horror and the 6th year of Fantastic Planet. What is it about horror and science fiction/fantasy that appeals so passionately to genre fans?

Dean: The films in these genres take us on trips to imagined landscapes that are closer to our dreams, our nightmares, and the dimly lit corners of our subconscious, than those more mundane journeys offered by other types of cinematic fare. At their best, they allow us to view the dramas of the real world through a wonderful, and sometimes terrifying, allegorical lens. Plus, lets face it; they tend to be more fun.

CP: It all started as a single night of Australian made horror shorts. Next year A Night of Horror will celebrate its tenth birthday. Did you ever think or hope it would be where it is today? Where do you hope it will be, and in what form, in another ten years?

Dean: When we started the festival almost a decade ago, I'm not even sure that we meant to do it more than once. We were filmmakers who had just made a horror short film ourselves and, after screening at some horror fests overseas, realised that there was no horror friendly fest in Sydney. We figured that there had to be a few dozen local filmmakers like ourselves, hungry for somewhere to showcase their horror short. Then we only ever imagined a one night, one session event, featuring maybe a dozen locally made short films (hence the fest’s name “A Night of Horror”). We soon discovered there were hundreds of horror filmmakers, all around the world, looking for a Sydney home to screen their films, and we were kind of swept away with the wave from there. So I'm reluctant to even imagine where we'll be in ten years, given how un-tuned my radar seems to have been in seeing into the future, now our present, ten years ago.

CP: The two festivals champion the independent scene; what are some of the difficulties in finding the balance of arty content with a real edge vs. commercial content that will guarantee bums on seats?

Dean: As a programmer it interests me far more in discovering films and/or filmmakers than screening films that already have distribution deals in place and will be at a megaplex or out on Blu-ray or VOD within a month. Even setting aside my programmer hat for a moment, seeing original cutting edge content interests me far more as an audience member as well. One of the reasons the festival introduced the “Launch Pad” component three years back, was to make sure that we were focusing even more on world premiere films. It's wonderful to see the trajectory of films that launch, or play very early in their run, at the festival, go on to play even bigger festivals after A Night of Horror, and achieve distribution.

I think far too few festivals today play anywhere near enough films that were entered through their open submission process. That's disingenuous: taking money from hundreds (perhaps thousands) of independent filmmakers, and then sourcing almost your entire program from what already has major buzz, i.e. films that already have sales representation/distribution in place, or that have already played several major festivals. I would like to think that part of our mission as a film festival is to help create, rather than cash in on buzz. Many fantastic films over the history of the festival have started long and successful festival runs with us. And several films have been sold at, or as a result of screening at, the fest: including Family Demons, Found, All Superheroes Must Die, Father’s Day, Fury: The Tales of Ronan Pearce and Inner Demon to name a handful. It's a tradition I'm very proud of and one I intend to maintain for as long as I continue helming the fest. Hopefully the festival's audience knows the high calibre of films we program, and are prepared to continue taking chances with us on independent genre films.

CP: What specific elements do you look for in the horror genre and in the science fiction/fantasy genre?

Dean: I like to see traditional genre tropes spun in directions that I wouldn't have expected. I love a wonderful story, skilful execution of the script, strong performances, etc. But most of all I love to be surprised.

CP: How has the scene - both the industry and the movies themselves - changed over the past decade?

Dean: I think it keeps ascending. Ever since the digital revolution and the accompanying democratisation of filmmaking, more and more independent filmmakers seem to be working in the genre. The percentage of films that are great might not be any higher, but because there are so many more films being made, as a result there are more great films being made. The calibre of submissions in the last couple of years has reached the stage where I wish I had three times as many slots to fill in the festival program, as I could do it easily. 

CP: What three horror movies have had a lasting impact on you as a cinephile?

Dean: There are plenty, but just three: Halloween, Dawn of the Dead, and Rosemary’s Baby.

CP: What three science fiction/fantasy movies?

Dean: Again, plenty, but three: Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior), Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope), and They Live.

CP: The Australian short film showcase, the international short film showcase, and the Lovecraftian-themed shorts are the festivals longest running mini-programmes. Do you have a favourite short, off the top of your head? What is it about HP Lovecraft?

Dean: Yes, the Lovecraft program – always as a Sunday matinee - is the longest running program at the festival (we actually didn't use to separate the Australian and international shorts into different programs). It's funny to recall that in year one we held the Lovecraft matinee screening in an RSL club!

Off the top of my head ... a short I still probably think about more than any other is AM 1200, which played in the Lovecraft section several years back. Terrifying, fantastic production values, and perfectly executed. And an exception to the rule, that a short film should be short (it's running time is 39 mins!)

Lovecraft could spin a horror yarn like no other writer before or since: an artful construction of that building sense of dread, an evocation of pervasive cosmic malice, a new mythology that feels like it should be real even though it isn't (at a level that only Tolkien and few other writers have ever been able to construct), all conveyed in that cultured and unmistakable New England voice, itself harkening to a time that now seems so distant that the prose alone evokes a sense of mystery and wonder.

CP: Ok, this will be a hard (and potentially time-consuming) one: Pick a favourite feature from each year of the festival?

Dean: Damn, that's tough. I really shouldn't have favourites; so instead, I'll list the one that first comes to mind from each year's fest. (That's got to mean something right?) Year 1: The Ancient Rite of Corey McGillis, Year 2: Doctor Inferno, Year 3: Finale, Year 4: The Revenant, Year 5: Skew, Year 6: Love, Year 7: All Superheroes Must Die, and Year 8: Fury: The Tales of Ronan Pierce.

CP: What three movies from this year's festival have particularly tickled your fancy and you’re more than a little excited about screening?

Dean: I'm excited about the entire program this year (yes, I know that's my job as a programmer to say, but I wouldn't have programmed anything that I wasn't really excited about). But since you asked for three, here’s a few that spring to mind: Landmine Goes Click Just blew me away (pun intended). I had no idea what was coming in the third act, and man, what a brutal and twisting surprise ... in a film already filled with brutal and twisting surprises. Normal is nothing else I've ever seen. A dark Eros building to End of Days apocalypticism. Director Michael Turney is definitely someone to watch. I'm delighted that we're world premiering his feature debut at the fest. And third, Be My Cat: A Film For Anne.

At a time when filmmakers have to really impress if they're working in the “found footage” medium this entry delivers like no other. The film follows a mentally unwell filmmaker (a mesmerising performance from Adrian Tofei, the film's director) who is obsessed with making a film starring Anne Hathaway. The film is presented as a macabre love letter to Hathaway, as the delusional lead does horrific things to other actresses in a twisted attempt to impress his Hollywood heart-throb into starring in his next film. Dread Central calls it “potentially revolutionary and potentially dangerous”. They are right on both counts.

 CP: Thank you Dean!

A Night Of Horror International Film Festival & Fantastic Planet Film Festival plays Thursday, November 26th – Sunday December 6th, Dendy Newtown Cinemas, Sydney. 



Q&A WITH GIGI SAUL GUERRERO, DIRECTOR OF EL GIGANTE

Cult Projections: What's your earliest memory of a horror-themed show on TV or in the cinema? What was it that excited you?

Gigi: I wasn't allowed to watch Horror films as a little girl (like most kids). In general, feeling scared was somewhat of a thrill for me. I really enjoyed it and made me curious to know more!! Also in Mexican culture there's so many scary legends told to us as kids that I was extremely attracted to them. One of my earliest memories was how much I loved walking in the “Horror” aisle at the Blockbuster near my house. Looking at all the cover posters of the films made me so curious yet so scared! Until I watched Child's Play as a little kid … Ha ha, I couldn't finish the film! I immediately turned it off; worried that that was going to happen to me. And I didn't watch another horror movie until nine years old: The Exorcist. I wanted to get scared!! My parents refused to let me watch a horror film with them.

CP: How do you compare watching movies at home in your living room to seeing a movie in the cinema? What are the pros and cons of each?

Gigi: Cinema theatres are where films were originally seen. I would rather watch a film in a cinema than at home, because there are no distractions, the image is sharp, and the sound is crystal clear! But then again, it costs money, and some patrons are annoying, etc. Although watching it at home you can also get distracted it does have its perks! You control your time and pace of watching films at home. You can talk or eat during the film, etc. Not only that but the technology is so advanced you can now get any film you want off the Internet! Both options will have pros and cons that we all relate to, but at the end of the day being in the cinema is where my inspiration for film grew, where I really felt that I was part of a different world.

CP: What are your thoughts on test screenings? When should a director stop bowing to the demands of what supposedly the audience, or an executive, wants?

Gigi: I think test screenings are fantastic to a certain extent. I would do test screenings to hear what works and what doesn't to improve my film but not to favour what the audience wants. I find doing test screenings is good to find that balance where the filmmaker is happy with their art and the majority of the audience gets it. Now if the film isn't made for a client it's always best and I highly encourage to always make the film you want until you feel it's ready for a test screening. Doing any kind of showing at an early stage I find is a bit difficult to get the point across to an audience. I know some people will disagree with me, but I stand strong that to make your art the way you want it to be seen, only do a test screening if you need to find out if there is something missing.

CP: What about Hollywood's increasing demand for remakes?

Gigi: Oh man … I am really not a huge fan of remakes, especially horror. But I mean I have been surprised and excited about a couple remakes that turned out really awesome! But I absolutely love seeing new and unique story ideas; it's really what inspired me to become a filmmaker. I understand that remakes are easy money grabbers … But hey!! If I got hired to do a remake I would probably freak out from excitement! Because at the end of the day we are making movies!

CP: Roman Polanski once replied that "atmosphere" was the most important element of a movie. What are your thoughts?

Gigi: I could agree with that, but I don’t think at all that it's the most important element, I am pretty sure it is the “story”. I find filmmaking is a visual way of telling stories, scenes, scenarios or even situations. I find from the moment the script is written you know you have a good film. You don't need a big budget or lots of resources, you just need a good story to begin with.

CP: Your background is in post-production, what parts of filmmaking do you like best; writing, shooting, special effects, editing, cast and crew screening? What, if anything, frustrates you?

Gigi: This might sound really cheesy… But the entire process of bringing a script to life is my favourite thing; as a whole. I am huge fan of directing and being able to share with my team the vision and ideas for the story. Now that I am thinking about it, I really enjoy editing! My shooting style is really specific because I shoot with an editor’s mind. At times my crew seem confused by my shot choices but that is because in my head I already know how I am going to cut it together. I love seeing it come together in the editing; it gets me so excited!

Over all the art of filmmaking is everything, and I love seeing what other members of the team being to the table.

CP: Is humour important in horror movies? If so, how? What horror-comedies do you enjoy, if any, or do you prefer your horror played straight and dark as midnight on a moonless night?

Gigi: Humour in comedies is fantastic! Not everybody will enjoy gore and dark violence on screen. But everybody loves to laugh, so why not mix both horror and comedy? In a way horror movies put audiences in a state to experience situations that do not necessarily happen to everybody. Horror films are able to let you experience emotions you wouldn’t experience in real life; horror that is actually happening in the world. Violence is not okay, but in films it is. When you mix comedy in horror it's also a way to release tension and give laughter to grotesque situations that we would never laugh at in real life. To me humour is important because no matter who you are or what language you speak we all understand laughter. Comedy is universal.

CP: What are your thoughts on the collaboration process of screenwriting? Do you work the same way with each person?

 Gigi: I have been lucky enough to work with writer/author Shane McKenzie on all of the most recent projects we have at Luchagore Productions over the past two years. He and I have the same sick and twisted mind that our ideas always end up working out beautifully. Not only that but something we have that is crucial and important is trust. We are able to easily feed each other suggestions and we listen. Our system of working has stayed the same since day one – I give him the general ideas or concept of what I want to film, for example, I say to Shane, “I wanna make something cool where a guy tortures his victims in a bull-fighting fashion. He only fights women and has them wearing bull heads on them. Oh and these girls are half naked … Go!” And in a day Shane gives me a script … And that's how M is for Matador was born (Part of ABCs Of Death 2.5).

P: Tell me about El Gigante the feature, what can we expect? Where does the short sit within the feature? Was your first short, Dead Crossing, another precursor? Will you aim for a U.S. hard R-rating?

Gigi: El Gigante feature is happening thanks to the help of Raven Banner Entertainment. We have partnered with them and I know that will be a huge step to making this film a reality!

I have written the feature screenplay and I absolutely love it! The short film was based on the first chapter of Shane's novel, and the feature script is based on the entire book! So of course things will be slightly changed here and there from the original novel, but Shane said to me, “I love the feature script better than my book!” And to me that was a huge sign that we are going in the right direction. Our goal is to make the next best horror film with the villains we love. Bringing back the kind of horror film where you are cheering for the bad guys. I can promise the feature has the same and more elements from the short film! It's absolutely insane and gory and hell! And yes, If I could make this film a “triple R” I would. But Let me tell you that the second half has scenes that will probably have the film banned in a few countries … So let’s say it's rated R for now heh heh ;)

CP: Several of your shorts embrace the occult and the dark underbelly of Mexico. Are they all from the same reality, the same universe, so to speak? What interests you about black magic and demonology?

Gigi: I will continue to bring some of my Mexican background/culture to my films as much as I can. Mexican culture is so rich with endless traditions and legends. Bringing my heritage into the genre of horror has been so much fun because I am able to give it a dark twist and make it unique. When you watch a “Luchagore” film it looks like it comes from the same universe! Our style had made a staple mark to be gritty, gory and have a fun “TexMex” feel to it. Also on our last short Madre De Dios we played with many different elements: Santa Muerte, cult rituals, religion, and even the Antichrist. It’s not that it necessarily interests me, it's because all those elements scare me. Making horror films is a way to cope with your own fears and I really wanted to make something that gives me chills.

CP: Do you have a definitive all-time fave list of movies? If so, please list the top ten. If not, what five currently rock your world?

Gigi: Hahaha! Arghh, this question drives me insane!! My list of favourite films easily reaches fifty to one hundred! I like all kinds of movies, but what I will do is list the first teb that come to my head! Children of Men, The Devils Rejects, Amores Perros, Pan’s Labyrinth, Sicario, 21 Grams, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), [REC] & [REC] 2, Inglourious Basterds, and Gremlins. BAM!! Oh man, that was hard …

CP: If you could adapt a novel or graphic novel, what would it be?

Gigi: I am already on it!!! I am not joking when I say that Shane’s novel Muerte Con Carne (El Gigante) was the first time I said to myself “I must make this into a film!” It was just everything I always wanted! Lucha Libre, which I love, and so much gore! The story stood out to me a lot as well because of the social commentary on border crossing and cannibalism. It's the perfect norror novel in my opinion.

CP: What movie(s) have you seen that genuinely disturbed, frightened, or possibly offended you?

Gigi: I will never forget how traumatised I was after watching The Exorcist when I was around nine years old in the cinema when it was re-released as the restored “director’s cut”. I wanted to get scared so badly and begged my mom to take me, and that was the first time a film did that to me and it stayed with me for a long time. Still do this day I feel uncomfortable watching it. Brilliant movie. Now I don’t usually say I would get offended but I was really pissed off while watching A Serbian Film. I almost finished it twice … I still can't finish the rest of the film. I really am not the type to stand torture porn; It really isn't enjoyable to me. I love gore, but in a different context. The film is really well done and it must be a good sign that it affects me so much watching the situations in it. As a filmmaker we have to make our audience feel something. If they don't feel anything or simply forget about what they just watched then we didn't do our job as a storyteller. So for that I give props to A Serbian Film, but fuck, I ain't finishing it.

CP: If you could host a dinner party with six industry guests from anywhere and from any period in history (directors, actors, technicians, etc), who would they be? What movie would you screen after dinner?

Gigi: OK!!! Well let's sort the banquet first. My special dinner party would consist of deliciously spicy micheladas to drink, maybe some good tequila and mezcal (gets people to break the ice easier, heh heh) and I would totally get some home made Mexican food going! Pozole, enchiladas, you name it! As for my guests, now the problem is that I would invite way too many people. So I will stick to a few that pop in my head first. Oh! And let's pretend I am close friends with all these people. I would invite Tarantino, Eli Roth, Pedro Infante, El Santo, Robin Williams, and Ellen DeGeneres. Ha ha, it took me at least a minute to think of a good combo of people. What movie I would screen? Ha ha, I would probably screen The Mist. Why? No clue, I just freaking love the ending of that film and every time I show it to people the reactions of the end are priceless. So I would wanna see their reactions to it ;)

Am I too random?

CP: Just a little loco! Thank you Gigi, can’t wait for your first feature!

El Gigante screens at Melbourne’s Monster Fest, Saturday, November 28th, 1pm AND at Sydney’s A Night Of Horror International Film Festival, Saturday, December 5th, 2pm. 

 

Chewing the Fat! Cult Projections Podcast #3

In conversation with Matthew A. Brown, writer/director of Julia, discussing the art of the revenge movie and beyond. 

Julia star Ashley C. Williams (clutching her Screamfest award) and writer/director Matthew A. Brown.

Julia star Ashley C. Williams (clutching her Screamfest award) and writer/director Matthew A. Brown.

Julia is released on Blu-ray & DVD by Monster Pictures on August 19, 2015. 

Q&A with John Fallon, writer/director of The Shelter

Cult Projections: Tell me a little about your background. You trained as an actor, but you had your sights set on becoming a filmmaker, yes?

John: I did two years of film school then I did three years of acting school. I was kind of searching for myself being that every facet of filmmaking, in front and behind the camera interested me. Once school was done, I acted in theatre productions, did the audition rounds while working as a script doctor for local production companies.

CP: You’ve been acting consistently since 2001, and you’ve had a love-hate relationship with the art, will you continue to pursue the acting career, now that you’ve made your first feature?

John: I always loved the art but hated the business side of it. I have since made peace with the latter though. Right now, I wouldn’t turn down a good acting role if it fell in my lap and I do have three upcoming roles already secured, but I am not actively pursing acting at the moment. Since directing The Shelter, I am hooked and I am in the process of getting my directorial follow up off the ground. Something with a bigger budget that is way more mainstream. That is where my energy is going.

CP: Did you have actor “heroes” growing up? Who were your inspirations and/or influences as you moved into acting professionally?

John: I looked up to Sylvester Stallone as a role model personally and professionally. He was a man that had nothing and earned his success through hard work and perseverance. That inspired me. And he could do it all: acting, writing, directing! So yeah, Stallone was my hero growing up and it is still a goal of mine to work with him someday (I did submit myself for Rambo). Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Jean Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Clint Eastwood, James Dean, Marlon Brandon, and Mickey Rourke were also inspirations/influences.

CP: Can you tell me a little about your creative process as a screenwriter? Do you involve many others for feedback/input?

John: My process usually goes like this when writing on spec: I find the premise and the ending. Then I think about the project, figuring it out in my head, until I finally sit down, pour myself a whiskey on the rocks and write. I use the choices that I made and my instinct to get me from point A to C. After a first draft, I usually get feedback from my inner circle and then go back at it again with distance and an outside perspective. And then I’m usually done, until the script gets acquired and shot and more changes are needed.

CP: You’ve collaborated on some screenplays, and others you’ve written on your own. What are the pros and cons of both?

John: There are no cons on working alone. You’re in full control. And when you need distance because you’re too close to see what you truly have, you take a week off and then go back to it with fresh eyes. The pros of writing with somebody else would be that they of course bring a perspective to the material that is not yours; hence they can contribute something you wouldn’t have thought of. You also have somebody to bounce ideas with (I love a good bouncing session) and they can kick you in the ass when you just don’t feel like writing – much like a good gym partner.

The cons of working with somebody else? Having to make compromises when you don’t share the same vision is one of them. I also found writing by committee i.e. trying to please the director, the producers and yourself all at the same time to be challenging.

CP: How did you land the enviable editor’s position of website Arrow In The Head? Briefly describe a few highlights and a few headaches.

John: Working on a website was never a goal of mine. It was never even a thought in my mind. In the year 2000 my good buddy Berge Garabedian aka JoBlo asked me “Hey you know about that horror stuff, do you want to start a section on my fansite JoBlo.com?” I said “Sure only if we call it Arrow in the Head and you don’t censor me” And that was the beginning, I started AITH for fun, I figured it would keep my writing fresh. Websites and blogs were at an infancy stage then and I never expected it to become a full-blown career path. The pros of Arrow in the Head were that I travelled a lot, experienced many things, hooked up with many of my closest friends via the site and got to meet so many people in the film industry, some of them being my heroes. I mean I had lunch with Arnold Schwarzenegger on the set of The Last Stand, that was surreal for me, something like that would not have happened without the site.

On the flip side, you are what you are known for hence for a long time everybody perceived me as a film critic/webmaster pretending to be an actor/screenwriter when it was the other way around. Hence I did harbor some resentment towards the site since even though it was giving me so much, it was also somewhat getting in the way of what I truly wanted to do. It was also a lot of work. I mean I remember doing every single thing on AITH myself for five years. I’d actually go to sleep in my clothes so I wouldn’t have to waste time getting dressed when I got up in the morning – I’d get straight to work; building, building, building …

CP: What’s your opinion on the current climate of movie review blogs/sites?

John: They are fine I guess. I can’t say that I really read any of them to be honest. Running a website for fifteen years, the last thing I wanna do with my time off is read other people’s websites/blogs. You’ll find me in nature, in the gym or reading a good book. Doing anything but being online.

CP: OK, so one word each to describe: acting, screenwriting, directing, film criticism.

John: Acting – fun. Screenwriting – control. Directing – war. Film criticism – opinion.

CP: Where does the story of The Shelter stem? It comes across as a very personal movie.

John: The initial creative spark that triggered The Shelter was seeing a homeless man sitting in the snow on my way back from a hockey game. I gave him some money and on my walk back home I started making up a story about that man. Who was he? Where did he come from? How did he get there? Where is he going? The seed for the Shelter was born. Once I sat down to finally tackle the screenplay: my own personal demons, themes that fascinate me (like guilt and forgiveness), and my spirituality seeped in there to result in what the film became.

CP: What’s your opinion on other religious-themed horror movies?

John: Too many of them focus on the same things: demons, the devil, and possession. It’s overkill. Solid horror films focusing on God as opposed to the Devil are few and far between. And I found that fascinating being that anybody that’s read the Old Testament knows that God can be pretty extreme in the name of “good”. One religious-themed film that I admire is Bill Paxton’s Frailty. It’s powerful, clever and well-acted picture that showed the dark side of doing “God’s work”. I wish there were more films like it out there.

CP: Was Michael Paré always the actor you had in mind, or did you have an audition process?

John: Having met Mike and spent time with him in Budapest on the set of Eric Red’s 100 Feet in 2008, I actually had him in mind when I wrote the script. The lead character looked like him in my head. But at the time I didn’t think he’d do the movie. He was very busy hence when it came down to it, I was looking for somebody “like Michael Pare” to star in The Shelter. That’s until co-producer Donny Broussard convinced me to just send him the script and see what happens. Mike read it, he dug it, I met him in LA, we talked it out and made a deal. It was meant to be. I didn’t audition him and I didn’t need to. I knew he was up the task and that he had that key quality this particular role needed: magnetism. The audience had to want to watch him being that he’s pretty much in every frame of the picture. Mike pulled it off and then some in my opinion; his visceral performance is one of The Shelter’s main strengths.

Producer Danny Broussard, John Fallon, and Michael Paré

Producer Danny Broussard, John Fallon, and Michael Paré

CP: What has been some of the joys of making your first feature, and what have been some of the headaches and heartaches?

John: Everything about the actual shoot was a joy for me, even the hard times. I love being challenged, it was a delight to see my script come to life and I felt very comfortable behind the camera, in my element if you will. Of course being that time and money were of an essence, I had to consolidate some scenes and looking at the film now, I wish I had done some things differently; but that comes with the territory. I have been on many sets and The Shelter was my favorite one. I couldn’t have asked for a harder working crew and a smoother shoot.

Alas, as the lead producer and the person that owns the project i.e. responsible for everything, the true headaches came after I yelled out “It’s a wrap!”. That has been and still is the true challenge of having made this film.  

CP: What have been some of the movies of the past few years that have really impressed you?

John: Last year I esteemed Gone Girl, The Guest, Honeymoon, Interstellar, The Babadook, and Predestination. This year, Ex Machina, Maggie, and Mad Max Fury Road have stood out for me thus far.

CP: Okay, and finally, perhaps the most difficult question of all: Name your five all-time favorite horror movies.

John: I hate that question! Let’s just say that The Exorcist, Lost Highway, The Hitcher, Suspiria, and Near Dark are all up there!

CP: Thank you for your time John!

John: My pleasure! Thank you for having me!

 

The Shelter is currently on the international festival circuit.